Happy Hour Alert: Cheese Really Improves the Taste of Wine


A study showed a glass of wine tasted better between bites of cheese. But you probably knew that already. Rich Legg/Getty Images
A study showed a glass of wine tasted better between bites of cheese. But you probably knew that already. Rich Legg/Getty Images

As if wine lovers needed any more excuses to snap up some slabs of cheese to pair with their vino, a recent study in the journal Food Science shows what people have long suspected – cheese improves the taste of different types of wine.

Researchers at the Centre for Taste and Feeding Behavior in France asked 31 French wine drinkers to taste four different wines, first on their own, then with each of four different cheeses, to see if and how the taste of the wine was changed by the cheese.

The method used to evaluate the taste is called multi-intake temporal dominance of sensations, which simply means that the drinkers were asked which taste sensations were dominant in length and intensity – or in layman's terms, which ones did you enjoy and why?

The wines were the same through all five tastings – a sweet white Pacherenc, a dry white Sancerre, a full-bodied red Bourgogne and a fruity red Madiran. In the first session, the tasters took three sips of each wine with no cheese. In the following sessions, they again took three sips, but in each session tasted a different cheese between sips. All four cheeses – a creamy Epoisses, a semi-hard Comté, a semi-soft Roquefort, a hard Crottin de Chavignol were tasted with each wine.

The study found that all of the wines tasted better after eating cheese – less astringent and sour and in the case of the Madiran, for example, the fruity flavor lasted longer.

"We learned the duration of the perception of astringency of a certain wine could be reduced after having cheese and the four evaluated cheeses had the same effect,” said lead researcher Mara Galmarini in a Telegraph story. "In short, when having a plate of assorted cheeses, the wine will probably taste better no matter which one they choose."

This is probably because the fat in cheese coats your mouth and reduces the dryness it might feel due to tannin from the wine. The mouth likes a balance.

Beyond making wine-and-cheese parties a potentially less expensive endeavor, the researchers have a practical application for this study: To better understand how the taste of food can change when paired with other foods, leading to new and possibly better meals as different foods are served together.