Author: Lizette Borreli
The real reason why wine and cheese are often paired together has to do with creating a more balanced mouth feel to prevent dry mouth.
At a happy hour, a dinner event, or a winery, we’re likely to see wine and cheese together on the menu. This classic food pairing makes it less likely for us to get dry mouth when we drink wine, and science has found out why. The food combination pair of astringent wine with fatty cheese, opposing foods of sensory perception, help create a more balanced mouth feel.
In the video, “Why Does Wine Make Your Mouth Feel Dry?” MinuteEarth explains the temporarily leather-like feel in our mouth is linked to the tannins in wine. The over consumption of tannins, like having a few glasses of wine, causes the slippery proteins in our saliva, tongues and cheeks to stick together, which produces a rough feeling on the tongue. Luckily, the bonds between the tannins and proteins are temporary, meaning once the mouth creates new saliva, it will dilute the tannins and carry them away.
Instead of waiting for new saliva to develop, there are proteins in fatty foods that will bond with the tannins, rather than our mouth. In a 2012 study, published in the journal Cell, researchers suggest drinking wine and eating cheese together work as the mild astringent cuts fat. Astringents tend to have a strong effect each time the mouth is exposed to them, implying they react more strongly with the lubricating proteins in the mouth upon each exposure.
A separate study published in the Journal of Food Science found when four different types of cheeses were paired with four different wines, the cheese influenced the dominant taste of each wine. For example, when participants paired a dry white Sancerre with Epoisses cheese, they were more likely to detect citrus notes. Meanwhile, when a spicy red Bourgogne was paired with Roquefort, the astringency decreased because the the fat in the cheese coated the mouth, therefore, reducing the tannin-induced drying.
These findings simply suggest why wine and cheese pairings have come to exist. An excess of tannins leads to dry mouth, but pairing astringent foods with fatty foods, like cheese, can help offset this feeling. Our mouth will feel smooth and leather-free.
Moreover, this sensory method can help us better understand why our perception of food changes when it is paired with something else. Perhaps this is why sandwiches are paired with pickles; why green tea goes with sushi; and why oil goes with vinegar. These famous food pairings could be a direct result of cultures finding the most balanced pairings based on what the foods are made of.
Until then, we will gladly pair our wine and cheese together, in the name of food science.