French Wine Pairing: Dessert & Cheese

Culture & Lifestyle | France | By Olivier Maillard

Matching wine with food is a science and an art in France. Here we provide some guidelines to get you started, pairing common French dishes with wines from across the country. Of course, meals in France can last hours and consist of many courses; before dessert be sure to check out pairings for the first and main courses.

Dessert Course

Champagne is sometimes served with dessert. But only a demi-sec (or equivalent Crémant de Loire) can stand up to a sweet pudding.

Fruits (strawberries, raspberries, peaches and apricots)

Strawberries and cream Sauternes, Monbazillac and the Vins Doux Naturels (Muscat wines from Beaumes de Venise, Rivesaltes and Frontignan) are all delicious with non citrus fruits and tarts or mousses made from these fruits.

Custard or Crème Brûlée

Sauternes or Barsac

Chocolate Desserts

Try Liqueurs or brandy. That said, a Banyuls or Muscat de Beaumes de Venise stands up to a not-too-intense chocolate mousse.

Bitter Chocolate Cakes and Soufflés

Red wine such as a Pomerol works well. Or, try a Red Bubbly from the Loire Valley with chocolate—it’s divine!

Did you know…?

It is customary in France to serve the finest wine of the meal with the cheese course.

The Cheese Course

Cheese and red wine are supposed to complement each other, but a strong or over-ripe cheese can dominate everything but very substantial wines.

Camembert, Brie, Pont L’Eveque and other soft cheeses (if not pungently ripe)

Red Burgundy

French cheese
A strong or over-ripe cheese can dominate all but the most substantial wines.
Young Dutch cheeses (such as Gouda and Edam)

Red Burgundy

Milder English cheeses

Claret, Chinon and Bourgueil

Mature cheeses

Rhône Valley Red

Blue cheeses

A sweet white wine

Münster cheeses

A late-harvested Alsace Gewürztraminer

Goat cheese

Sancerre or almost any dry white wine works well. Or for something different, try a Chinon Red with goat cheese, which creates a wonderful “marriage”. For Mature goat cheeses, try  a sweeter wine such as Maury (Roussillon), Sauternes or a strong Côtes de Rhône.