We Brits don’t have a long tradition of washed-rind cheeses but we have a true champion in the aptly named Stinking Bishop, which shot to worldwide fame when it was featured in the film Wallace and Gromit and the Were-Rabbit. But can any wine (or other drink) stand up to it? Read on . . .
Stinking Bishop is made by Charles Martell in Dymock in Gloucestershire and is so named because its rind is washed with perry made from Stinking Bishop pears. That makes perry (cider made from perry pears) the obvious match but, depending on how far gone and stinky the cheese is, it may not be powerful enough to stand up to it.
A better bet would be a pear-flavoured liqueur. Martell makes his own which is called Owler or you could try a Poire William from France.
So far as wines are concerned your best best would be a fragrant Gewürztraminer which should be able to handle the strong flavour of the cheese. In Alsace, where the majority come from, it’s regularly paired with Munster, a similar style of washed-rind cheese.
Reds are tricky with this style of cheese. In Burgundy they tend to match red burgundy with the local Epoisses but I think it's a bit of a killer. Certainly more full-bodied tannic reds will clash horribly.
Sweet wines can be a good option. I’ve paired Sauternes with stinky cheeses before and it’s worked really well. Or, even better - and British - a sweet cider. The Ledbury-based producer Once Upon a Tree makes a Blenheim Dessert Cider which would be delicious. As would cider brandy.
And then there’s beer. We don’t tend to have the strong Trappist styles of beer they have in Belgium and Northern France but beers like Chimay Bleu pair well with washed-rind cheeses. Your best home-grown option would be a rich sweet barley wine like J W Lees Vintage Harvest Ale.