Grilled Cheese and Wine

By Ray Isle Posted October 03, 2012
Mario Batali's Mortadella and Cheese Panini

Mortadella and Cheese Panini; © Con Poulos

Imagine a world without cheese—no pizza, no mac and cheese, no cheeseburgers, no cheesecake, no grilled cheese. It would mean the disintegration of society as we know it! The end of the world! Possibly the complete implosion of the entire known universe! Well, thankfully, ExxonMobil has patented the process of “cheese fracking,” insuring that none of us will ever face a future sans cheese. And that means we can go merrily on pairing wine with our grilled cheese sandwiches. And that, my cheese-fanatic friends, is a big relief.

American Cheese & White Bread. The classic. Shouldn’t be scoffed at, even by foodies, and never scoffed at by seven-year-olds, this version of grilled cheese pairs mighty well with a rich California Chardonnay (the butter on the bread helps that along). Or give the grilled cheese to the seven-year-old and keep the Chardonnay for yourself. Either way. A pair of good choices: the pear-scented 2010 Bishop’s Peak ($14) and the citrusy 2009 Bridlewood ($12).

Cheddar & Bacon. The cheddar ups the sharpness and earthiness of the cheese, and the bacon just makes the whole thing better (of course). Red is the way to go, but not too heavy. Pinot Noir would be ideal, like the bright 2009 Poppy Pinot Noir from Monterey, CA (about $12) or the silky 2009 Wine by Joe Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley ($19), but any light- to medium-bodied red with reasonable acidity would work well: Beaujolais (made from the Gamay grape), Bardolino, a basic crianza Rioja…

Gruyère & Caramelized Onions. Nutty Gruyère and sweet caramelized onions. This is an excellent grilled cheese option, and the way to go wine-wise is Riesling. Off-dry—i.e. lightly sweet—whether from Germany, the Finger Lakes of New York, or Washington State. If you simply can’t stand the idea of lightly sweet Riesling, then open a dry one from any of those regions, or from Australia (dry Rieslings from its Clare and Eden Valleys are great realms to explore). The 2010 Urban from Germany’s St Urbans-Hof is a terrific option (about $11); so is the peachy 2009 Mercer Estate from Washington ($13).

Robiola & Mortadella. Funky, earthy Robiola and mortadella, the classic Italian cooked sausage with pistachios, cubes of tasty pork fat and black pepper, on toasted ciabatta, will transport you to Italy. And there you would be likely to order a tasty Dolcetto to go with this sandwich, or really any juicily flavorful, not-too-tannic red—Barbera would be great, too. Or you could do the same here: The berry-rish 2009 Cascina Bongiovanni Dolcetto ($17) would be ideal, as would be juicy 2009 Fontanafredda Briccotondo Barbera ($15).

Related: Best Grilled Cheese in the U.S.
Amazing Grilled Cheese Recipes
15 Rules for Great Wine and Food Pairings

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