Provolone cheese is one of the most ubiquitous cheeses in the world today, but most people know it first as a deli style cheese that is used on sandwiches.
there are some very serious styles of Provolone made in its ancestral home in Naples, Lombardy and the Veneto in Italy, in addition to other regions of the world.
If you happen to come across one of these delicious cheeses, you have the start of an amazing cheese and wine pairing board.
Pairing with the different varieties
While it begins similarly to mozzarella (they are both cows milk cheeses made in the pasta filata, or spun paste style) Provolone takes a hard turn at the aging process.
Most Provolone is aged to the dolce, or sweet category, which takes four months like this one here.
A more uncommon style of Provolone undergoes further aging to the piccante level, which can be up to three years old, however these versions are rare, and for the purposes of this article we will focus on Provolone dolce.
Provolone Dolce – wine choosing tips
When most people think of Provolone dolce, they think of a soft and mild cheese that is best utilized in sandwiches, grilled cheese, or in a pasta sauce.
However, it can also be used on a cheese board in lieu of a cheese like mozzarella, burrata, or fromage blanc.
Either way, Provolone dolce’s versatility lies in its simplicity, and this simplicity is key to pairing it with the right wine.
you have gone to your local grocer and picked up a block of Provolone dolce, and you walk over to the wine aisle to pick a wine to go with it.
Out of a sea of wine, which one do you choose?
Provolone dolce has a mild, milky flavor with nutty notes and a dense, moist texture.
You want to pick a wine that won’t overwhelm these delicate flavors while helping to refresh the palate in between bites of cheese.
However, that density of flavor and fattiness found in almost all cow’s milk cheeses needs a wine with a bit of weight at the same time.
So, you are looking for wines in the middle: a bit of acidity, but a bit of richness too, and not-too-intense flavors, but not too light either.
With that in mind,
here are five few styles of wine that pair well with Provolone dolce, and why they are good choices:
#1 Roero Arneis, Cortese di Gavi, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo
Have you ever heard the phrase, what grows together goes together?
Italian white wine and Italian cheese are a match made in heaven.
All three of these wines have nice acidity which helps to cut the richness of Provolone dolce, but they have enough body to match it at the same time.
Likewise, their flavors do not compete with Provolone’s, but complement it with apricot, cut apple, and white flower notes.
While some styles of these wines have more richness and body than others, all of these would do well paired with Provolone dolce.
Continuing on the Italian wines trend,
Prosecco is another good match for this cheese.
Prosecco, like most sparkling wine, has high acidity, however Champagne and Cremant are made in a method that contributes a toasty, brioche-like character to the wines,
and in this case it can overpower the mild flavor of Provolone dolce (See the taste of 100+ type cheeses to pair with this wine).
Prosecco, on the other hand, is made in a style that does not contribute those toasty notes to the wine, but tends to have a touch of sweetness to round out the acidity, and that makes it perfect for the pairing at hand.
Yellow apple, lemon, and pear notes complement the nutty and milky flavors in Provolone nicely.
#3 Unoaked Chardonnay
The days of rich, buttery, and creamy Chardonnay are coming to an end, and they are being replaced with much more restrained versions of one of the most popular white wines in the world.
The most restrained type of Chardonnay you can find is that which has received no oak aging whatsoever.
This style is perfect for Provolone,
as it retains the apple/pear/tropical fruit notes that Chardonnay is known for, but it doesn’t have the overbearing oak notes of vanilla and baking spices that many more classic versions have.
If you are struggling to find this wine, look on the label or the back of the bottle.
Most unoaked Chardonnays will display that they are unoaked somewhere prominently, as it is a departure from the classic Chardonnay taste and they want to differentiate themselves.
#4 Bordeaux Blanc
Bordeaux is best known as a red-wine region, but the white version is delicious and costs much, much less.
Made with a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, these wines are usually finished in neutral oak vats, which helps to soften their acidity and add some creamy character.
The flavors veer towards the grassy, green apple side of Sauvignon Blanc and not the tropical flavor heavy version from New Zealand.
This helps Bordeaux Blanc match well with Provolone dolce, as it isn’t too acidic nor are the flavors too intensely bright.
#5 Very Light Bodied Reds
Notice there is only one red wine section on this list.
Because of Provolone dolce’s light flavor, most red wines in the world would be much too heavy, with higher alcohol and fuller body than white wines.
After a sip of Cabernet Sauvignon, you wouldn’t be able to taste the cheese at all.
However, like with all rules there are a couple exceptions.
A very light Beaujolais or Pinot Noir with tart cranberry and cherry notes could match well with Provolone, and enhance the fruity character of the wine while still complementing the mild and milky flavors of the cheese.
Likewise, there are some wines that are made to be drunk extremely young, Nouveau-style, and these would work well also.
They are not meant to be complex, tannic, or bold, and this is exactly what Provolone dolce is like.
However, with red wines you have to be careful and taste in advance before buying, as just a little bit too much oak or tannin will completely diminish the Provolone.
That being said, if you get a hold of some Provolone piccante, red wine would be a great choice!
How to serve provolone & wine like a professional
So now you’ve got your chunk of Provolone dolce, your wine, some crackers or bread, and some charcuterie to finish off your cheese board.
Maybe a little bit of jam or mustard to go with it.
You head home and put your bag down on the kitchen counter, and you wonder, what’s the proper method for serving all of this?
Obviously, you’ll put it all together on a nice slate or wood cutting board, but what about the wine glasses?
What temperature is best to serve everything?
We’ll start from the beginning.
If you aren’t serving your cheese or charcuterie for a couple of hours, throw them in the fridge.
If you picked a white wine, throw it in the fridge too.
Then, about 30 minutes before you are expecting to serve it, pull out the cheese and charcuterie. And about 15 minutes before you open and pour the bottle of white wine, take it out of the fridge too.
Lastly, if you have a light red wine you intend to serve, put it in the fridge when you pull out the white wine, and open them both at the same time.
But, why do this?
Well, for cheese, wine, and charcuterie, the best temperature to serve them at is roughly the temperature they were aged at.
Most producers who age food or beverage products will taste them at cellar temperature to see if they are ready to be bottle or packaged and sold.
And most wine cellars, cheese caves, or charcuterie aging rooms are not as cold as your refrigerator is. As a matter of fact, they are usually around 45-55 degrees Fahrenheit, and as such you need a half an hour or so to bring cheese and charcuterie up to that temperature.
For the wine, most people tend to like white wines at 40 degrees or so, which means that pulling it out of the fridge 15 minutes prior to serving will be perfect.
For the light red wine, putting it in the fridge for 15-20 minutes will help bring its temperature down to 50-55 degrees or so, which is the best temperature to serve red wine.
This will help your cheese, wine, and charcuterie to put their best foot forward when being served.
As for wine glasses,
the first four wines listed above are pretty easy.
Any medium sized white wine glass will do; you don’t want one with too slim or wide a rim, as they are not meant for that style of glassware.
The unoaked Chardonnay is the one exception: this wine would show well in both a medium sized white wine glass or a slightly wider rimmed glass meant for oaked Chardonnay or Pinot Noir.
For the lighter reds,
especially if you choose a Nouveau style, I actually prefer a stemless glass, as these wines are meant to be casually enjoyed amongst friends and family and do not require a fancy wine glass.
And there you have it.
Your cheese board is set and smelling delicious, your wines are perfectly chilled, and your glasses are at the ready. All there is left to do now is the fun part: eat, drink, and be merry! Enjoy!