You know how difficult it is to find a good wine and cheese match? Well here are five I’ve recently tasted that hit the spot perfectly. Four were at a tasting at the recent Bristol Wine Fair that was conducted by the food and wine writer Andrea Leeman. The other was a serendipitous one I came across the other night when we were eating with friends.
Trethowan Caerphilly with Albet i Noya (Bristol Wine Company)
All credit to Andrea for coming up with this combination - I would never have thought of it. Caerphilly is a delicate cheese with a mild lactic flavour which is easily overwhelmed but her choice of this neutral dry white from Penedès, made from the same grape variety that is used to make cava, was serendipitous, the whole being much more than the sum of the parts. The wine allowed the complexity of the artisanal cheese to shine while the cheese brought out a delicious fruitiness in the wine.
White Lake 'Rachel' with Goldridge Estate, Sauvignon Blanc 2007 (Coulters in Clifton)
A classic match but well handled. White Lake is one of my favourite West Country cheese producers and Rachel, a semi-hard goats' cheese, which in this instance was 12 weeks old giving it quite a rich nutty flavour that stood up well to the typically vivacious gooseberryish Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region of New Zealand. Hard to go wrong with this combination, admittedly, but still highly enjoyable.
Keens cheddar with Domaine Chaude-Arnaud Côtes du Rhône 2006 (Coulters as above)
This is the kind of red wine and cheese pairing everyone expects to work but often misfires. Artisanal cheddars like Keens with their complex, often farmyardy flavour are quite hard to match with wine but this easy going Côtes du Rhône, a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault, rubbed along just fine. (The lesson to learn is the absence of harsh tannins.) An alternative, Andrea suggested, and which I think would probably be even better, would be the Somerset Royal Cider Brandy Company’s Kingston Black, a strong apple aperitif made from cider apples.
Stitchelton with Domaine Pouderoux, Maury 2000 (Corks of Cotham)
Again sweet red wine and blue cheese is a classic but this was a beautifully conceived pairing using the much acclaimed Stichelton cheese (a new unpasteurised version of stilton) which tends to be fuller-flavoured than most stiltons these days. Despite being only 15.5% (I say ‘only’ in comparison to port) the Maury was wonderfully rich, sweet and spicy, the perfect counterpoint to the cheese. (I’ve also had great success with Stilton and Sloe Gin.)
La Granja Manchego (Waitrose) with Domaine de Morin-Langaran Vin de Pays d’Oc Blanc 2006
I always regard Manchego, like other hard sheeps’ cheeses, as a reliable fall-back with red wines but it surprisingly proved a quite brilliant match for this oddball white we picked up from a Languedoc Picpoul producer near Meze earlier this year. I can’t unfortunately find the domaine on the internet to check the grape varieties but suspect it might contain white Grenache and/or Terret, maybe some Picpoul and a dash of Clairette or Muscat which burst into life with the cheese, turning a simple southern vin blanc into an exceptionally pretty, aromatic mouthful. It underlines how useful Manchego is with wine.