Grilled cheese: impossible food-wine pairing?

grilled cheese virgin mary Is food-wine pairing dead? Never! And the same is true of our “impossible” pairings. So by request, we kick off 2012 with an easy one for you: grilled cheese.

Yes, it’s comfort food. And, no, it’s not impossible as the bread-cheese duo is the basis of so many delicious staples from pizza to ravioli. So raise the degree of difficulty, if you so desire, by adding a twist to the classic by suggesting your favorite cheese. (Incidentally, Ruth Reichl gave some tips last week on Gilt Taste about how to make grilled cheese better, including grating the cheese and adding a thin layer of mayo!) Who knows, maybe your grilled cheese will be graced by a depiction of the Virgin Mary it and you can sell it for $28k on eBay!

Bryan, who asked the question originally, said he went with Australian cheddar and a Simon Bize Savigny-les-Beaune 2009. How would you spin it?

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16 Responses to “Grilled cheese: impossible food-wine pairing?”


  1. Enjoy having Parmesan with pepperoncini on rustic bread, using only olive oil for my grilled cheese. The sandwich goes great with a Napa Zin like Frog’s Leap due to the spiciness and Mediterranean flair.


  2. Last year we got hooked on a grilled cheese variant and had it whenever we were tasting Chilean Pinot Noirs.
    Added some smashed avacado, used Monterray Jack, and a thin shmear of bacon jam spread (skilletstreetfood.com).


  3. I love high-low pairings. Give me Wonderbread, butter in a tub, and neon cheese slicked in plastic. I won’t wince; I’ll uncork a Napa Chardonnay.


  4. Colby Jack, sliced tomatoes and onion on Italian or sourdough bread cooked on a panini grill without butter, oil, etc. (You can also add bacon). Pair with a good fruity Chianti, not-too-heavy Malbec or Bonarda.

    BTW, is that really a grilled cheese in the photo? It does not look appetizing!


  5. I absolutely love sipping Southern Italian whites along with a grilled cheese and tomato soup!


  6. Thanks for the thoughts!

    This is definitely one of those types of posts where Twitter has preempted the discussion! There was a fast and funny back-and-forth there; I’ll try to capture some of the reactions here:

    RT @JesseInDisguise: Nice work. How about Comte and Macle?

    RT @trouty: Champagne… my answer for everything. RT @drvino: Grilled cheese: impossible food-wine pairing? http://j.mp/zYHdCw Thanks, @corkhoarder

    RT @kel_russell: @JesseInDisguise @drvino @corkhoarder That’s what I told Bryan that night! Where’s the Jura!?

    RT @corkhoarder: @JesseInDisguise @drvino oh, fo’sho!

    RT @corkhoarder: @trouty @drvino Selosse and grilled cheese was my initial thought but modesty prevailed. :-)

    RT @JesseInDisguise: @drvino @trouty @kel_russell @corkhoarder These foods often work very well with crazy good wine. Krug & Nachos, Montrachet & Mac n Cheese…

    RT @trouty: @drvino @jesseindisguise @kel_russell @corkhoarder I’m experimenting more w/ absurdly-expensive-wine-and-cheap-foods. Coche & Twinkies next?

    RT @VictordelaSerna: @trouty @drvino @jesseindisguise @kel_russell @corkhoarder Why in heaven?

    RT @corkhoarder: @VictordelaSerna @trouty @drvino @jesseindisguise @kel_russell precisely for heaven!

    RT @VictordelaSerna: @corkhoarder @trouty @drvino @jesseindisguise @kel_russell Oh – you mean there’s heaven in, say, Yquem and Twinkies?

    RT @JesseInDisguise: @VictordelaSerna @corkhoarder @trouty @drvino @kel_russell I’ve yet to go down that water slide, but it’s worth trying once I suppose.

    RT @montesquieuwine: @trouty @drvino @jesseindisguise @kel_russell @corkhoarder Ha! A friend swears that pork rinds with 10+yr old Hermitage is fab!

    RT @corkhoarder: @VictordelaSerna @trouty @drvino @jesseindisguise @kel_russell the road to heaven is paved in Twinkies & Yquem!

    RT @montesquieuwine: @drvino @corkhoarder @trouty @jesseindisguise @kel_russell
    Jean-François’ ears must be on fire right now!

    RT @VictordelaSerna: @corkhoarder @trouty @drvino @jesseindisguise @kel_russell Then I’m hellbound for sure

    RT @JesseInDisguise: @corkhoarder @trouty @drvino @kel_russell RE: Selosse and grilled chez…let’s score some Rolf Bieler swiss and see what happens?

    RT @corkhoarder: @VictordelaSerna @trouty @drvino @jesseindisguise @kel_russell that road is all Cornas and deep fried pork belly #winwin

    RT @corkhoarder: @montesquieuwine @trouty @drvino @jesseindisguise @kel_russell Hermitage & Pork rinds…I’ll try it and report back!

    RT @VictordelaSerna: @corkhoarder @trouty @drvino @jesseindisguise @kel_russell That sounds a lot better than the Twinkies

    RT @corkhoarder: @JesseInDisguise @trouty @drvino @kel_russell Sounds good to me! Where can we get the cheese?

    RT @JesseInDisguise: @JesseInDisguise @corkhoarder @trouty @drvino @kel_russell Looks like Ideal has it: http://www.idealcheese.com/rolfbeelerreservegruyere.aspx

    RT @JesseInDisguise: @corkhoarder @trouty @drvino @kel_russell I vote for @blueribbonnyc bread – their pullman loaf makes great sammies all around.

    RT @kel_russell: @JesseInDisguise @corkhoarder @trouty @drvino Cheese sounds great.. Lately I’m partial to @FairwayMarket challah…SO good in #grilledcheese

    RT @JesseInDisguise: @kel_russell @corkhoarder @trouty @drvino @FairwayMarket Sounds like we’ll be having more than one per person.

    RT @invinumveritas: @JesseInDisguise @trouty @kel_russell @corkhoarder @drvino simple food is a blank canvas on which a great wine it’s free to express itself

    RT @pawpawapps: @trouty @jesseindisguise @kel_russell @corkhoarder @drvino Champagne and Egg McMuffin goes pretty well.

    RT @gvillewinebeer: @drvino I swear, when in doubt, go Rose — especially Tempranillo. Don’t know why, but it usually works.

    RT @claffee: @drvino Krug and grilled cheese was how my wife and I celebrated our first anniversary a few years back – great #wine pairing!


  7. Seems everyone’s wondering about what wine to serve with grilled cheese these days.

    Here’s what Ray Isle (of Food & Wine magazine) suggested today at http://eatocracy.cnn.com/2012/01/09/best-wines-for-grilled-cheese/:

    American Cheese & White Bread
    The classic. Shouldn’t be scoffed at, even by foodies, and never scoffed at by seven-year-olds, this ur-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).


  8. Epoisses and a good Chablis. Something to cut the richness.


  9. Gruyere or compte, Vidalia onion, tomato, a bit of mayo, on rye. A good gin martini. Perhaps a Galician white could stand in for the martini by standing up to the food.


  10. 01 ch. musar blanc goes well with fondue, why not grill it too?


  11. No! Mayo on a grilled cheese sandwhich!? YUCK!


  12. It’s all about upgrading the entire sandwich experience, better cheese, better bread, equals better wine pairing potential. Or, take the whole thing and make it dessert – I love a grilled sandwich of nutella and bananas (no cheese) paired with a stunning Banyuls.

    Jodi @tampawinewoman


  13. Grilled Cheese and Vouvray, 100%.


  14. I adore grilled cheese sandwiches. For me it’s mayonnaise and cheddar with basil infused olive oil brushed on the outside of the sandwich. I don’t fret about the type of wine I drink with it. I’ve been happy with everything I’ve tried.


  15. Good old fashioned grilled cheddar cheese sandwich, with a lightly buttered bread…and a nice buttery chardonnay!


  16. Cava. The bubbles and zingy acidity scrub your palate between bites, while the leesy notes echo the sandwich’s toasty goodness.


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