Best wines for grilled cheese
January 9th, 2012
10:30 AM ET
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Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.

Imagine a world without cheese - no pizza, no mac and cheese, no cheeseburgers, no cheesecake, no grilled cheese. It would mean the disintegration of society as we know it! The end of the world! Possibly the complete implosion of the entire known universe!

Well, thankfully, the big oil companies have recently patented the process of “cheese fracking,” insuring that none of us will ever face a future sans cheese. And that means we can go merrily on pairing wine with our grilled cheese sandwiches. And that, my cheese-fanatic friends, is a big relief.

American Cheese & White Bread
The classic. Shouldn’t be scoffed at, even by foodies, and never scoffed at by seven-year-olds, this ur-version of grilled cheese pairs mighty well with a rich California Chardonnay (the butter on the bread helps that along). Or give the grilled cheese to the seven-year-old and keep the Chardonnay for yourself. Either way. A pair of good choices: the pear-scented 2010 Bishop’s Peak ($14) and the citrusy 2009 Bridlewood ($12)

Cheddar & Bacon
The cheddar ups the sharpness and earthiness of the cheese, and the bacon just makes the whole thing better (of course). Red is the way to go, but not too heavy. Pinot Noir would be ideal, like the bright 2009 Poppy Pinot Noir from Monterey, CA (about $12) or the silky 2009 Wine by Joe Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley ($19), but any light- to medium-bodied red with reasonable acidity would work well: Beaujolais (made from the Gamay grape), Bardolino, a basic crianza Rioja.

Gruyère & Caramelized Onions
Nutty Gruyère and sweet caramelized onions. This is an excellent grilled cheese option, and the way to go wine-wise is Riesling. Off-dry - i.e. lightly sweet - whether from Germany, the Finger Lakes of New York, or Washington State. If you simply can’t stand the idea of lightly sweet Riesling, then open a dry one from any of those regions, or from Australia (dry Rieslings from its Clare and Eden Valleys are great realms to explore). The 2010 Urban from Germany’s St Urbans-Hof is a terrific option (about $11); so is the peachy 2009 Mercer Estate from Washington ($13).

Robiola & Mortadella
Funky, earthy Robiola and mortadella, the classic Italian cooked sausage with pistachios, cubes of tasty pork fat and black pepper, on toasted ciabatta, will transport you to Italy. And there you would be likely to order a tasty Dolcetto to go with this sandwich, or really any juicily flavorful, not-too-tannic red—Barbera would be great, too. Or you could do the same here: The berry-rish 2009 Cascina Bongiovanni Dolcetto ($17) would be ideal, as would be juicy 2009 Fontanafredda Briccotondo Barbera ($15).

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50 Best Bars in America

Best Fried Chicken in the U.S.

Best Pizza Places in the U.S.

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© 2011 American Express Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

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Filed under: Content Partner • Food and Wine • Grilled Cheese • Sandwiches • Sip • Wine

soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. oubie

    wine and cheese.

    that might actually catch on.

    January 9, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  2. Memo

    The best wine for a grilled cheese sandwich is either a beer or a Coke.

    January 9, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Truefax

      Ice cold milk! Fizzy drinks and butter don't go together in my book.

      January 10, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  3. Peanut M&M

    Yum, grilled cheese and wine. When I make pot roast, I always make sure I have enough left over beef to make sandwiches with. I put the beef with caramelized onions and white cheddar on sourdough bread and crisp it all up on my grill pan. Maybe next time I'll use Gruyere and try a dry Reisling with it.

    January 9, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  4. Rod Venables

    Do they still make "Thunderbird"?

    January 9, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  5. Valentijn

    I tried an onion and gouda grilled cheese (without wine) after reading this article. It was amazing, and might even make up for the author including american cheese and white bread.

    January 9, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  6. super stud puppy

    What do you call 1,000 pretentious grilled cheese eatin' pinky in the air wine sniffin' and sippin' american foodies at the bottom of the ocean?

    January 9, 2012 at 11:06 am |
  7. Wastrel

    Why sure. For American cheese on white bread – a $.50 sandwich (pictured) – you need a $20 bottle of wine. Why did I realize that before??

    January 9, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • Wastrel

      Or didn't I? Something like that :)

      January 9, 2012 at 11:07 am |
  8. Will

    Anyone who doesn't like grilled cheese needs slapped across the face.

    January 9, 2012 at 10:15 am |
  9. Shrek

    Um the IQ test is a sick JOKE. God's armies don't sleep. Peace be with us. Peace be with us.

    January 9, 2012 at 9:38 am |
  10. Cheeze Head

    Maybe, but I'm going to have all the fun I can before the bottom drops out of the whole shabang.

    January 9, 2012 at 9:17 am |
  11. What The

    Americans are a goofy bunch, we spend our time trying to find the right wine for our junk food. If we would spend our efforts trying to eat better quality food, we might not be so friggin' fat, lazy, and wanting to match the best wine to a cheeseburger or something.

    January 9, 2012 at 9:16 am |
  12. Valentijn

    Seriously, American cheese and white bread? The reason it's fed to 7 year olds is because no one else will eat it.

    January 9, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • Cheeze Head

      EZ Cheezy.

      January 9, 2012 at 9:16 am |
    • Truefax

      I will so eat that up, bring on. Stop being a stick in the mud, mac & cheese (made in a slow cooker not the packaged stuff) is still AWSOME. Kids these days just eat the boxed crap since their parents don't know/care enough to do it right, but when it comes to grilled cheese....

      Nothing says I love you (or maybe die from heart disease you decide) that a hot grilled cheese sandwich and a cold glass of milk in my book.

      January 10, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  13. Glenn

    cleaning... drool... off... keyboard.

    January 9, 2012 at 8:57 am |
    • CN Red

      I know, right? I had breakfast this morning and I swear that photo just made me hungry.

      January 9, 2012 at 9:00 am |
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