Red wine and cheese is one of those couplings - like country and Western - that's so automatic that few people actually stop to consider if it actually makes sense. Why not, for example, country and Southern, since that's where so much of the music comes from anyway?
And why red wine with cheese when white wine is so much better with it? Although red wine does go well with certain hard cheeses (such as Parmigiano), I find that its tannins often get in the way. White wines work better because they're so much more versatile in style, texture and character. They can be soft and fruity, dry and minerally or sumptuously sweet. They can pair with goat cheese and blue cheese and stinky cheese, too.
But I'm convinced that most people drink red wine with cheese for one simple reason: At the end of the meal, it's what they have in their glass. The other night, I was at a friend's house for dinner and they pulled out some Camembert to polish off the rest of the wine. Though the cheese was lovely, it was pretty much squashed by the Zinfandel, whose assertive flavors and fairly high alcohol practically bullied the poor Camembert straight off the plate.
My solution is simple: I serve my cheese at the start of the meal, accompanied by a glass of white wine - Sauvignon Blanc, Grüner Veltliner or a Riesling. I know it's not chic nor particularly fashionable - it may even be a bit Midwestern, as one guest once said (without even knowing that's where I'm from). But it definitely works as a food and wine pairing. And I'm happy to say I've made a few converts. Like my friend onnie (Pennsylvania-born), who likes cheese first, as well - though she added she 'aspires' to having it after a meal. 'I know that it's chic,' she told me, 'but actually I'd rather have a brownie instead.'