The scientific reason why cheese tends to make wine taste better


Wine & cheese

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The marriage of wine and cheese is one of the most quintessential food pairings in the whole of existence. There are some misses, naturally, but it's a hit almost every single time. A recent study suggests there may be a scientific explanation for it.  


Delicious food science

Eating cheese may actually increase how much someone likes the wine they are drinking, according to the study published in the October issue of the Journal of Food Science.

The study was conducted at the Center for Taste and Feeding Behavior in France with frequent wine and cheese consumers from the city of Dijon. The subjects evaluated four wines — Pacherenc, Sancerre, Bourgogne and Madiran — using a new sensory evaluation method developed by the researchers to show how the description and preference of different wines change after cheese intake over the course of several sips, which is closer to what happens in typical consumption.

The subjects were given a list of sensations to indicate what caught their attention as they consumed the wine over three consecutive sips and after they swallowed.

Once the wines were initially evaluated, the task was repeated, this time with a piece of cheese consumed in-between sips. Four different cheeses — Epoisses, Comté, Roquefort and Crottin de Chavignol — were sampled in different sessions with each wine.

Results showed that cheese consumption had an effect on the description for all wines, and affected preference for most. None of the four cheeses included in the study had a negative effect on wine preference. Liking of each wine was increased or remained the same after cheese intake. In both red wines (Bourgogne and Madiran), the four cheeses decreased the duration of dominance of astringency and increased that of red fruits aroma. In the sweet white (Pacherenc), the duration of dominance of sweetness was not changed by cheese intake, but in the white dry wine, cheeses had an effect on the main aroma.

"Thanks to our research we learned that the duration of the perception of astringency of a certain wine could be reduced after having cheese and that the four evaluated cheeses had the same effect. In short, when having a plate of assorted cheeses, the wine will probably taste better no matter which cheese they choose," lead author Mara V. Galmarini explained.

According to the authors, the sensory method developed in their work can help build better understanding of how the perception of one product is changed when consumed in combination with another. This information can help food brands communicate their products' characteristics, thus improving consumers' experiences.