There is a large wine store near my house, and I often go there to pick up and they often have tastings about once a month. We go on a date night once a week and this is, by far, our favorite pastime of the things we do.

We go there enough that most of the employees know us by name. They usually greet us and show us what they’ve got that they think we’ll like, which is always a treat. They usually are correct, too! Although sometimes I wonder if it is that they are very good that their jobs, or if it is because we’re that easy to please.

The best part is that it isn’t just a wine tasting night. Sometimes a local restaurant supplies food for pairings, but it is usually a wine and cheese pairing. I like these best. If I wanted a meal, I would go to the restaurant myself – I get that it is promotional for the restaurant and all that, but I would much rather eat cheese that time of night. But that’s just me. My husband usually likes having what he calls “second dinner.”

Since we’ve attended so many of these, there’s a few things I’ve learned about wine and cheese pairings. For instance, did you know that people have been pairing wine and cheese for over 4,000 years? There’s an excellent reason for this. Wine and cheese actually have a lot in common. When you think about it, both wine and cheese are greatly affected by the area that they are made — for instance, the climate and region they hail from. They also both use yeast in a fermentation process. And both improve with age! They are natural complements to one another.

There is a bit of an art to pairing wine and cheese. You can’t just grab any wine off the shelf and stick it with some cubed cheese from the deli section, hoping it will taste good. A good rule of thumb: wine and cheese made in the same region should pair well together. That’s all well and good, but I’m not great at following the rules. So, there’s no reason to limit yourself to specific geographic areas. Here are a few ideas to widen the scope you can offer:

–wines that have a higher tannin content (the higher the content, the drier the wine) go better with harder cheeses.

–Soft and creamy cheeses go better with acidic wines.

–Light colored cheese often goes well with fruity wines.

–Hearty, rich cheese pairs nicely with light reds.

–Veined cheeses go well with sweet dessert wines.

Here are some of my favorite wine pairings: Riesling and Fontina, Gewürztraminer and Brie, Bordeaux and Parmigiano, and Sauternes with Mascarpone. There’s more, but this will give you an idea of some fun combinations to try for yourself.

What about you, what do you like to pair your wine with?