Cheese can be a very challenging ingredient to match wines – even for a well-seasoned sommelier. Staple classics that have been embedded into our gastronomic heritage such as a mature Stilton and Vintage Port are great marriages of tastes and flavours. But why do these combinations work?
Before choosing a wine to match with cheese, it would be helpful to first consider these important points:
- What type of milk is the cheese made from? i.e cow, goat or ewe/sheep.
- Texture? i.e hard, semi-hard, semi-soft, soft and oozing.
For me, this last factor is the most interesting. I genuinely believe that with food and wine matching, and especially with cheese, the natural tastes and flavours found within the region are best. Moreover, use these ‘rules’ as a general rule of thumb to guide you in your choices, but also have fun and think outside the box. You never know, you may make some interesting discoveries!
Recently, whilst sauntering around Borough Market, in my guise of the roving sommelier and taking in the wafts of mulled wine and warm cider, a list of 10 artisan cheeses (all available from within the market) was thrust into my hand and I was given the brief of: “find some interesting wines to match them”. I was definitely up for this challenge!
Ardrahan: Neal’s Yard Dairy
Irish Cow. Round, creamy centre, orange rind washed, smoky bacon aromas.
Brewdog Jura Paradox, Imperial Stout matured in Jura whisky casks, Scotland 15% abv £8 per bottle from Utobeer – a really complex, aromatic beer that packs a punch, that will cope with the smoky bacon flavour and rich, unctuous texture of the cheese.
Vacherin Mont d’Or: Borough Cheese
Swiss Cow. Boxed, round, very creamy centre, pale rind.
2010 Paul Blanck Riesling, Alsace, France £18 per bottle from Borough Wines – a crisp and dry Riesling with plenty of zesty, citrus and floral notes and mouth-watering acidity
Torta de Barros: Brindisa
Spanish Goat. Round, cream centre, pale rind with paper edge.
D’Oliveiras, Medium Dry Madeira, Portugal £19.99 per bottle from Cartwight’s Brothers – I’m a big fan of Madeira, especially as an alternative to port with cheese. Even though pleasantly drier than port, this one has richness and lovely nutty aromas, appetisingly tangy and a long, persistent finish.
Serra da Estrela: Rainha Santa
Portugese Sheep. Round, very soft cream centre, thin straw colour rind.
Mas Becha “Excellence” Vin Doux Naturel, Roussillon, France £22 per bottle from Borough Wines – this is a lightly-fortified red wine from the Catalan part of South-west France with bags of cherry fruit and plenty of juicy freshness, that should work well with this interesting cream cheese.
Isle of Mull Cheddar: Neal’s Yard Dairy
Scottish Cow. Large round rinded, hard white cheese.
The Kernel Brewery Stout, Spa Road, Bermondsey, London 7.2% abv £4 per bottle from Utobeer – I love matching beer with cheese and this stalwart classic, produced by a talented crew at a local artisan brewery is a wonderful combination of harmonious tastes and flavours.
L’ubriaco Prosecco: L’Ubriaco
Italian Cow. Large round, semi hard, white, with bright, fruity taste. “Ubriaco” means ‘drunken’ in English – refers to the fact that during the cheese-making process the cheese is macerated with grape skins and a little of the local wine.
2011 Falerio, Pecorino, Saladini Pilastri, Le Marche, Italy £26 per bottle from Bedales – this dry white wine (Pecorino is also the name of an Italian grape variety) is made to be enjoyed with cheese. A good alternative to a Prosecco, perhaps?
Belper Knolle: Jumi
Swiss Cow. Small hard coated balls of white cheese in a muslin, rolled in piquant spices, salt and pepper. Normally shaved/grated.
2009 Paul Blanck Pinot Gris, Alsace, France £20 per bottle from Borough Wines – a very challenging match for wine. In fact, this intensely piquant, artisan Swiss cheese is normally used in cooking – shaved into risottos or over meat dishes, in similar way to Parmesan. However, I reckon this quince-scented, off-dry and aromatic Pinot Gris from Alsace should complement the unique flavours and strong personality of the Belper Knolle.
Lord London: Alsop and Walker
English Cow. Bell shaped, creamy coloured semi soft, very rich and buttery.
2008 Bolney Estate, Blanc de Blancs, Brut, Sussex £31 per bottle from The Wine Pantry – for me, this is a no-brainer. Clean, fresh, dry English sparkling wine from Sussex displaying citrus notes and mouth-watering acidity to cut through this exquisitely, butter-rich local cheese.
Stichelton: Neal’s Yard Dairy
English Cow. Large round, blue and white centre, dark rind. ‘Original’ recipe for Stilton, made with unpasteurised milk.
Palo Cortado, “Montagudo”, Delgado Zuleta, Sherry, Jerez, Spain £20 per bottle from Borough Wines – I adore Sherry with real enthusiasm and this dry, rich and complex aged masterpiece should stand up well to the bold flavours of a truly great blue cheese. Again, I’m not trying to re-invent the wheel, but showing you a great alternative to port with Stilton.
Vieux Mimolette: Une Normandes a Londres
French cow. Hard orange boule with rind pitted with cheese mite activity. Notes of caramel.
Harviestoun Brewery Ola Dubh No.8 Ale matured in malt whisky casks, Scotland 8% abv £6.50 per bottle from Utobeer – the powerful, malty aromas, deep, rich caramel notes and subtle hoppy nuances should provide you with an interesting combination of tastes and flavours.
Valencay: Une Normandes a Londres
French goat. Ash truncated pyramid. Semi-soft centre with fresh, pungent, lactic taste.
2011 Saumur Blanc “Soliterre” Thierry Germain, Loire Valley, France £20 per bottle from Borough Wines – normally a Sauvignon Blanc, such as a Sancerre or Pouilly-Fume from the Loire Valley would immediately spring to mind. However, I have decided to suggest you try a dry, apple and honey-scented Chenin Blanc with this tangy, iconic French goat’s cheese.
Please note: an edited version of this article will be featured in the next issue of the Borough Market magazine. For more details on products, suppliers and stallholders, please go to www.boroughmarket.org
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The epicurean odyssey continues…