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Dear Dr. Vinny,

Why are people so obsessed with pairing wine and cheese? Is it really a better wine-and-food match than others?

Rawlings M., Stellenbosch, Western Cape South Africa

Dear Rawlings,

For me—and a lot of people—pairing wine and cheese is a bit of a no-brainer. Overall, I think the classic idea is that, depending on the type of cheese, the protein and fat can soften the perception of tannins in red wines, the creaminess can balance the acidity in white wines, or the texture can complement sweet wines. I think wine and cheese both being complex, fermented products also has something to do with their penchant for matching.

Of course not every wine goes with every cheese, and a typical cheese plate—mixing styles and textures of cheeses—can be a fascinating exercise in realizing how a single wine in your glass works with some, but not all, of the cheeses you are sampling. Overall, more white wines tend to work with more types of cheese than red wines, but it’s certainly a matter of taste.

It’s hard for me to wrap my head around this, but I hear that some people don’t like cheese. Perhaps it can seem a bit pretentious to nibble on cheese, sip on wine and wax poetic. But I believe the fascination with pairing the two is well worth it. (Here are a few more tips.) If you do too, check out the Sept. 30, 2016, issue of Wine Spectator, "The Cheese Issue."

—Dr. Vinny

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