Eating cheese and drinking fine wine is really one of life’s little pleasures. The skills in matching the right cheese with the right wines is no easy task and something taken very seriously amongst the world's finest wine and cheese makers. One name that kept cropping up when speaking to winemakers about wine and cheese pairing was Bernard Antony, a man who now supplies 20 of the world’s 3* Michelin chefs as well as working alongside many of the world’s top winemakers matching cheese and wine at events for Guigal, Angelus, Humbrecht and many more.
We caught up with Jean Francois Antony (Bernard's son and protege) to find out more about Affinage (the ageing of cheese) and their perfect cheese and wine pairings.
45 Years at the Service of Taste
Bernard Antony is one of the world’s great cheese makers. Strictly speaking his mastery
is in affinage, that is finishing and ageing cheeses. From humble beginnings
working as a travelling grocer in Alsace, in 45 years he has gone on to become
one of the most recognised men in the world of fine cheese.
Bernard Antony was the protegé of the late great Maitre
Pierre Androucet – known as “the Pope of Cheese”. Bernard says of Pierre - "To
me, he was like a father. He was the man who created me, who taught us
everything, to my wife and me. He didn't like me to say it because he wanted to
give me all the credit for my success”.
Following on from Androucet’s advice
and support, Bernard set up his own cheese ageing cellars in the early eighties
in the southern Alsace village of Vieux-Ferrette. The ageing cellars are made
up of seven different chambers all at different humidity and temperature levels – ideal
for raising and ageing various different styles of cheese. Only when the
cheeses are deemed ready and at perfect ripening are they released to the
markets and delivered to restaurants. Ageing of cheeses can range from just a
few months for the fresher goat’s cheeses to several years for some hard
with Jean Francois Antony, Bernard’s son, who works alongside his father,
running the day to day operations of the cellars, he identifies that the skills in
good affinage revolve around a number of key elements. First of all, “raw
(unpasteurized milk) is essential if one is to speak of cheese with authenticity…
taking into account the breed of animal, the animals' diet, the talent of the
cheesemaker and then of course the controlled process of ripening are also key”.
cheeses arrive to the cellars already halfway through ripening and their ageing
cellars go into action to give them the final touch. They provide the perfect
environment and temperature for ageing as well as the most important element in
the Bernard Antony cheese cellars, the natural yeasts that live there helping
the cheese mature distinctly and in the best way possible.
famous ageing cellars are open for visits in the village of Vieux-Ferrette. If
you are travelling through Alsace it is an essential visit. Book via their
They often pair the cheeses with fine wine so we thought who better to ask for
advice on the ultimate cheese and wine pairings than the man himself.
Below is the Bernard and Jean Francois Antony’s essential guide to food and wine
matching, split up between the different styles of cheese, with additional
advice passed down from Pierre Androucet.
The Floury Crust Family of Cheeses
Brie de Meux (un peu sale)
St Marcellin and St Marcellin (runny)
The classic pairing would be Champagne (Blanc de Blancs, Aged
and even Rose Champagne) however Bernard Antony advises that you remove the
crust as it can make the wine appear more harsh. The bubbles work brilliantly in
refreshing the palate from these rich cheeses and the yeast flavours from the
Champagne also work really well. Avoid tannic reds with these cheeses. One of Bernard's
favourite matches include a Gevrey Chambertin 2012 from Domaine Denis Mortet
with the St Marcellin. He states a white wine with both gentle oxidation and
good acidity works particularly well with Petit Mosella (Saint Peray from
Domaine Tunnel or Alain Voge) or a fruity red wine with well-coated tannins
such as a Beaujolais Cru wines with the Chaource and Colombier fermier.
The Washed Crust Family of Cheeses
According to Androuet: robust and virile wines, with sap and
generous bouquet work best with these potent washed crust cheeses. They require
“solar wines“ which can harness the power of washed crusts. Gewurtztraminer
Grand Cru from Albert Mann, Chambolle Musigny from Liger Belair would both work
well. Pinot Noir from Zind Humbrecht, Bollinger 2008 Grande Annee also a
particular favourites with Bernard Antony.
The Pressed Crust Family of Cheeses
According to Androuet the matches depend on the evolution of
the cheese. Dry white or red wines with bouquet work well, red wine brings a
balancing touch of bitterness. These cheeses flatter any red wine by erasing
astringency and promoting fruit therefore making White or Red Burgundy a good
match. With more ageing of the cheese, wines from the greater South-West, the
Rhône Valley and Languedoc Roussillon become better matches. Other personal
favourites from Bernard Antony include Vernaccia di San Gimignano (Italy) White
wines from Valais (Switzerland), and Savignin wines from the Jura.
The Pressed (uncooked) Crust Family of Cheeses
Tomme de Savoie fermiere
Mimolette demi étuvé
Pairing again depends on the maturity of the cheese. The older
the cheese the richer the wine. Chateau Latour 2001 is Bernard’s match with
Morbier. Saint Joseph Pierre Gonon 2013 works well with Reblochon and Chateau
Canon La Gaffeliere Grand Cru Classe St Emilion 2008 works well with Saint
The Family of Blue Cheeses
Blue de Gex
These are best paired with sweeter fruited wine or sweet
wines. Avoid red wines as the mould changes the structure, the aromas and
brings out the bitterness. Top picks are Rivesaltes Vins Doux Naturels, Pacharenc
du Vic Bilh or aged Sauternes even red Vins Doux Naturels such as Maury,
Banyuls work well with blue cheeses.
The Family of Goat and Sheep Cheeses
Brebis cremeux et parfume
Moelleux et onctueux
Affiné. Vieux et sec
St Maure de Touraine
Banon de Provence
Chevrotin des Aravis
With this family of cheeses the wine must tame the acidity
of milk. The wine must work with the texture of the fat and complexity of the
flavours. Androuet confirms the well-known phrase - match local wines with
cheese of the same origin, particularly very dry and fruity whites. Dry white
wines from the Loire -include the smoky Pouilly Fume, Sancerre, Menetou-Salon, Quincy
and Reuilly work well with the goats cheeses from the region. From Burgundy, try
the lighter Aligoté, Saint-Véran, Macon villages and from the Alpine pastures
the white wines of Savoie or lighter reds of the Loire – Bourgueil and Chinon.
Bernard Antony’s particular favourites with these cheeses include wines closer
to home including Riesling Vendange Tardive 2007 from Barmes Buecher, 2002
Brundlmayer Gruner Veltliner Kaferberg 2002 and Pinot Gris Grand Cru
Osterberg 2016, Domaine Agape.