Best Wines for Charcuterie (or cured meat platter)

While there is obviously plenty of room for interpretation when concocting your next charcuterie wine pairing, there are still a couple of best practices that’ll make your experience just that little bit better. Since we do not know which kind of cheeses you are going to be serving up on your charcuterie board, here’s a general wine-cheese pairing guide.

What’s on your board?

Look at your offerings for charcuterie and cheese, and you will get a sense of which wines would go best together. If you are looking for some fresh ideas for your next charcuterie board, take a look at this board from Snixykitchen.

Salt, fat & acidity

Consider what wines the best complement or contrast the salt, fat, and acidity of each. Salt in foods softens the acidity of the wine, so go for styles with more acidity. Salt in food softens harder elements of a wine, such as harsh tannins or harsh acids. Keep in mind, that fattier foods such as cheeses go well with bolder reds or crisp, acidic whites; zesty, bitter foods go poorly with wines that are heavy on tannins.

As in the case of cheese pairings, high fat in cooked meats will counterbalance tannins in wine. The sweetness and savory balance in the cured meats will work well with the fruit and acidity of fruity wines.

Sweet & salty pairings

Prosciutto, Serrano, and mild hams, which all feature sweet-and-salty balance, pair well with wines with sweet fruits and lots of acidities. Highly aromatic meats, like fennel salami, often go well with tangy reds, like northern Italian reds. Spicy meats, and cheeses including Brie, Camembert, surface-ripened goat cheeses, and many semi-hard varieties, are well-complemented by dry whites and reds that are high in acidity yet low in tannin. In addition, these lighter-bodied whites and fruit-forward reds pair with various styles of cheeses as well.

Blue cheese and other bold flavors

Fruity or sweet wines balance out the saltiness and intense flavors in blue cheese. Your wine pairings will have to make up for it by having a bolder taste profile or contrasted fruit flavors.

White wines that have bright acidity and bright fruit flavors, such as Sauvignon blanc, Riesling, and Chardonnay, are refreshing foils for those bolder flavors. Pinot blanc, Chardonnay, and other lighter-bodied white wines compliment the tartness of semisoft cheeses such as Asiago, Fontina, and Havarti.

Hard, soft & cream cheese

Sparkling wines, Sangiovese, and Cabernet Sauvignon (light-bodied whites, heavy in reds) pair well with harder cheeses that have savory, sour, and nuttiness, such as Cheddar or Parmigiano-Reggiano. Riesling, sparkling wine, and rose are good for saltiness in fresh cheeses such as cream cheese, mozzarella, ricotta, feta, and mascarpone.

The fruity notes from light-bodied reds with a strong tartness shine through when combined with creamy cheeses. Be wary of wines leaning too much on herb or mineral notes, because these can appear harsh, mineral notes melting away in the smokey flavors, and herb notes can tip over to bitter, leaving just searing acidity, so make sure you choose whites that have some stone or ripe tropical fruit flavors.

Risk-free charcuterie

Light-to-medium-bodied reds with solid structures such as Gamay, Frappato, Zweigelt, and Cabernet Franc are always safe choices for the charcuterie board. For beginners, charcuterie boards featuring prosciutto, soppressata, or mortadella pair well with lighter-bodied white wines, such as Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio, or lighter-to-medium-bodied reds, such as Pinot Noir and Merlot.

Without any sharp flavors or smokiness, the lighter-bodied charcuterie goes with various wines just fine. This means that the charcuterie is both savory and contains a fair amount of fat, making the pairings relatively straightforward. Typically, this style of charcuterie is made using many different spices, especially bell peppers and cloves, that need to be balanced with a characterful wine made with fruit-forward varieties such as cabernet sauvignon and especially syrah. Always take into account how bold in flavor and spices are the charcuterie while choosing your wine.

Meet bold with bold

A good rule of thumb is to try and pair the boldness of wine with the boldness of charcuterie. If you are looking to crack open a wine that is bold and has a lot of tannins, bold charcuterie is an excellent choice. Avoid any fresh citrus on the charcuterie board, because the acidity may prove difficult to match to different wines. If you are reaching for bold red wines, make sure you include salty, hard cheeses, or a bold-flavored cheese, on your charcuterie board.

With that wine on the table, you should consider loading up on fresh fruits, semi-hard cheeses, and dry-cured sausages. Raw charcuterie such as dried salami, saucisson, granola, and uncooked prosciutto, all of which are oily and savory, needs a red with some acidity and really fine tannins. To enhance the savory, peppery flavors of the charcuterie, white wines with slightly acidic, mineral notes, such as a Sauvignon Blanc, a white Sancerre, or a white Burgundy, may be recommended as well.

Lighter Charcuterie Pairings

Crisp white wines such as Pinto Grigio, Riesling, Prosecco, and Rosso, and lighter red wines such as Barbera, Lambrusco, and Beaujolais Beaujolais, all go well with the charcuterie. Pairing Charcuterie with lighter-bodied white wines such as Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc, or medium-bodied reds such as Merlot or Pinot Noir, is an awesome way to enhance an occasion with family and friends. Many experts will say fuller-bodied reds and whites are a little too bold for lighter charcuterie meats and cheeses, but there are always exceptions to the rule.

Smoked & Oaked

Rustic red wines like cabernet sauvignon, malbec, Petite Sirah, and zinfandel all feature bold tannins and rustic flavors, which are well-suited for pairing with similar, smoky-flavored charcuterie. Cheeses that are creamy and lightly flavored with oak, like Brie or Camembert, or savory, aged meats, such as salami or prosciutto, pair well with medium-bodied white wines, which are more fruit-forward in flavors, and will complement the mild, buttery cheeses and aging, aged meats.

Lighter Cheeses, Goats milk cheese, and pate

Medium-bodied, buttery cheeses are best paired with Chardonnays and Merlots. Lighter cheeses, such as younger cows milk cheeses or goat milk cheeses, pair better with lighter wines such as Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, or Beaujolais. The nectar-like flavors of Sauternes work with some local honey, but a sharp cheese keeps things from getting overly sweet or sticky.

The fats in the meats help to mitigate the tannins found in the red wines, so fatty-rich meats such as pate or foie gras terrines are great pairings for Bordeaux-style reds. With hints of red fruits, as well as tart, salted cranberry on the palate, we suggest pairing this wine with Humboldt Fog cheese, dates, and most preparations of ham. If serving meats that are more delicate in flavor, such as prosciutto or Tuscan ham, opt for fruity, medium-bodied wines.

Champagne Charcuterie

You can also pair any white sparkling wine, like Cava, Prosecco, or Champagne: The crisp acidity and bubbly nature of all these will be very refreshing, and they all help to cut through the richness of the components in your charcuterie board. When you are making a charcuterie board, think about choosing a variety of different textures of meat, choosing meats that will go well with wines with a high acidity level and a low alcohol content, and making choices about the different profiles of cheeses, and always keep in mind your accompaniments.

Unless you are planning to pick out one single, individual wine that will go well with each and every item of your charcuterie board (far be it from us to tell you otherwise), you will want to be a little versatile. The easiest way to propose a pairing guide is to enumerate a few common charcuterie suspects, along with pairing recommendations, which again, are nice and loose, just something to get you started.

Conclusion

It is hard to choose just one wine to encompass the breadth of flavor profiles and textures in your plating, so the best thing is to have some sort of feast. You may not always have exactly one meat or cheese that has its geographical counterpart on the wine on your list, so you need to be versatile. When creating your wine-charcuterie pairings, play around with versatility, and remember you do not always need to pair strength with strength or finesse with finesse.

If you like charcuterie you’ll also want to check out our wine pairing for Pork Chops or perhaps our post on what wine is best with ham.