7 Wines To Go With Manchego Cheese
If there’s one thing modern Americans can agree on, it’s dairy. We can’t get enough of it. The average American drinks nearly 25 gallons of milk a year!
That said, Americans almost exclusively gravitate to one type of dairy: cow’s milk.
This is a shame for cheesemakers, who love taking advantage of the different types of milk on offer. Think plant-based cheeses made from soy or almond milk or animal-based beverages like goat’s milk.
Though, there’s one that doesn’t get anywhere near enough appreciation, even among cheese lovers — sheep’s milk.
Sheep’s milk is similar in taste and texture to goat’s milk but comes with a uniquely sweet, herbaceous flavor profile. These notes are on full display in one of the premier Spanish cheeses — Manchego.
This toasty, nutty cheese hails from the rolling hills of Central Spain. It’s not only a great savory snacker but it’s also one of the premier cheeses for wine pairing.
Read on to learn about this aged, semi-hard cheese and discover 7 complex and crisp vinos that will elevate this queso to new heights.
What Does Manchego Cheese Taste Like?
Manchego derives its name from the Manchegan sheep that roam the rural countryside of Central Spain.
This semi-hard cheese is famous for its herringbone rind and nutty, subtly sweet flavor profile. Piquant undertones of fruit play against verdant notes of Manchegan grass and dried herbs, creating remarkable contrast and savory flavor.
As the cheese ages, the texture hardens and crystallizes. Pores begin to open on the cheese’s body, creating a slightly flaky texture and enriching the natural flavors within. You’ll find a well-aged Manchego that is extra toasty and brimming with slight notes of almond and marmalade.
How is Manchego Made?
Manchegan cheesemakers position their creameries as close to the sheep pastures as possible, with sheep often found grazing just outside the facility’s doors.
After the sheep’s milk is harvested, cheesemakers pour the liquid into heated vats to add culture and rennet as it’s stirred. The milk coagulates and renders down to a firm curd.
After it’s cut and separated, the curd is drained for excess whey and stowed into a plastic or grass-woven mold.
Before it’s ready for aging, cheesemakers soak the rind in a brine to lock in flavor and moisture. Finally, it’s brushed in olive oil and aged for a few weeks or months before sending off to the hungry consumer.
Manchego Cheese Wine Pairing Suggestions
Manchego is often mistaken for Italian sheep’s milk cheeses like Pecorino-Romano and Parmigiano-Reggiano due to their similar taste and texture.
Milky cheeses like Brie and Camembert are often paired with crisp or sparkling whites, but this isn’t the case with the semi-hard cheese of Manchego. Due to its buttery and tangy flavors, the best wine with Manchego cheese is a full-bodied white or light red wine.
The umami flavors of this cheese complement the richer body of an oaked Chardonnay or a light red like Malbec and Cabernet.
Now that we’ve covered the foundational flavors of Manchego, let’s dive a bit deeper into some tailor-made vino suggestions for your next hunk of this savory Spanish cheese.
This complex red vino is often considered one of the best introductory red wines in any sommelier’s cellar. The flavors of Cabernet are rich yet not too challenging with gradually unfolding layers of dark and red fruit.
While red wines aren’t often paired with milky cheeses, they can make a dynamic duo with semi-hard cheeses like Manchego. If you’re able, seek out an older Cabernet as the tannins will be more refined, making for a smoother sipping experience.
This aromatic Spanish red makes a natural pair to many different hard kinds of cheese. The woody flavor profile and natural nuttiness of Manchego play beautifully against Chianti’s fruit-forward bouquet.
If you have a bottle of Chianti on hand and have just finished off the last of your Manchego, this wine also works wonders for bolder rinds like Cheddar Blue and Asiago.
The “wine of kings” doesn’t mind sharing its throne with top-notch dishes.
The tannic and acidic qualities of Barolo lend it to pairings with rich entreés like juicy steak, decadent truffles, and creamy mushroom risotto.
Barolo accentuates the rustic qualities of an aged Spanish cheese like this queso Manchego. Pair it with smoked salami and prosciutto on a charcuterie board or enjoy a hunk with some fresh Spanish bread for an authentic Mediterranean experience.
Similar in taste and texture to Cabernet, Malbec is a full-bodied red often served alongside lean red meat dishes. The soft tannins cut through the fatty qualities of roasted pork, dark turkey meat, and creamy mushroom sauces.
It also makes a complex company for Manchego. While cheeses are almost always paired with crisp white wines, red wines with a short finish complement the robust flavors without overwhelming the dish.
If your palate’s seeking some adventure, lay a slice or two of Manchego atop a juicy turkey burger alongside a slightly chilled glass of Malbec.
Lamb, chorizo, roasted pork, and chicken.
These are the dishes a sommelier might recommend for a Rioja Reserva pairing. The savory, full-bodied flavor profile also lends itself to charcuterie meats and strong Spanish cheeses like Manchego.
This red vino is fermented from Tempranillo grapes and is known for its robust structure and smooth tannins. It’s a tad fruitier than Cabernet and lends itself to a layered sipping experience, revealing notes of cherry, plum, and subtle vanilla.
An oaked Chardonnay certainly enriches Manchego with a buttery body, Although, in general, we recommend you look towards an unoaked Chardonnay for your Spanish cheese.
The supreme acidity and bright notes of citrus bring out the toasted, wooden notes within Manchego. It’s similar to Sauvignon Blanc in flavor and brimming with a refreshing, crisp texture.
Pinot Grigio (Gris)
Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris is perhaps best known for its high acidity and lack of sweetness. Indeed, it’s often referred to as a “high-acid white” and the flavor profile bursts with tangy herbs.
Its zesty, refreshing personality means Pinot Grigio is often served alongside crisp veggies, raw fish, and lighter seafood fare. Of course, it can also accentuate the profile of a sheep’s milk cheese like Manchego.
Match Your Manchego With Wine Insiders
Be warned — once you try a masterful Manchego made from sheep’s milk, you might find it difficult to go back to cow’s milk.
The nutty, sweet flavors of this Spanish, semi-hard cheese only become more rewarding with each bite. Grab a well-aged rind and pair it with a decked-out charcuterie board. If you were wondering, “What wine goes with Manchego cheese,” simply grab your favorite reds and crisp whites off the shelf and start creating your own pairing duos!
While you’re waiting for your bottles to arrive, read through our blog to learn more about general cheese and wine pairing tips and tricks along with some wine pairing suggestions for the chocolate lovers among us!