Oops. I voted for three options, was told that was too many, and chose only one - whereas I could have chosen two. Perhaps I didn't pay enough attention at the beginning!
There is a definite cultural divide too.
The English, for instance, when they have a cheese course (which is not too often in my experience), enjoy it *after* the dessert.
I fully agree that Port is ideal here. A natural red wine is far less suited.
If you are used to having cheese at virtually every meal, as in France, you take it in as a given.
The question of whether or not to have wine (generally to finish your glass, or the bottle) with cheese seems self-evident.
This is as French as the Folies Bergère or croissants in the morning.
Most French wine is red. The Germans, presumably, prefer their white wines with cheese!
Although I'm American, I have not spent my adult life in the States. In my experience, cheese courses are pretty rare there (perhaps I stand to be corrected here).
I've most often seen cheese put out *before* the meal in the US, or served as one of a series of dishes or tidbits i.e. it is not a separate course as such.
I'm pretty much responding to Tim's posts on the other thread, but there is also a long history in France of seeing cheese as in integral part of *any* gourmet meal,
and to match the finest wine of the evening. This is usually red, although people in Chablis or Muscadet may have a different take on this
Not all traditions are grounded in logic, but I have come to see this one as valid.
Another factor is that there is usually a *selection* of cheeses, which most people can recognize at a glance, so you take your favorite one(s), and concentrate on the milder ones if you've got a great wine in your glass.
Furthermore, people take their time over meals in France. This is to say, if you have a subtle wine and strong cheese, you eat a bit of cheese (on bread), take a sip of wine, wait, take another sip, a third sip etc. before reverting to the cheese. The idea of matching does not mean simultaneous consumption. The first taste of wine after cheese is different from the second and third sips without. This is all part of the experience. The wine's subtlety is in most instance's enhanced. I've known cheeses, of course, whose flavor wouldn't go away (the naughty expression in French is "ça sent la jeune fille qui se néglige").*
This is the difference between a serious tasting and a dining experience. And we all know that the two can be quite different.
Personally, I'd rather have my Ch. Margaux at table and, yes, with the cheese, then on its own, clinically so to speak even if, arguably, the wine's merits will show up better in the latter instance when appraised in its "pure" state.
For red wine drinkers, skipping wine with the cheese, or "reverting" to a white wine would seem unnatural. Like starting the meal off with coffee.
On the other hand, my French friends have also been delighted every time I have brought out Port with the cheese (not too often, but it has been known to happen).