News and views | Pairing cheese and claret

News and views

Pairing cheese and claret

I’ve always had a bit of a problem finding cheese matches for red Bordeaux. Cheddar is often suggested but I find mature versions have too much ‘bite'. Stilton slays it and so do most washed rind cheeses, oozy Camemberts and Bries . . .

The most successful match I’ve found so far is Mimolette so maybe it was auto-suggestion at work when I tasted a deep orange Red Leicester at The Fine Cheese Co’s Cheese Fair in Bath at the weekend and immediately thought of red Bordeaux.

It was the Sparkenhoe Red Leicester from David and Jo Clarke of the Leicestershire Handmade Cheese Co. a revival of an old recipe and a lovely mellow, typically English cheese. Extraordinarily it hasn’t actually been made in Leicestershire for 20 years and for even longer - over 50 years - on a farm in the county.

It has more flavour than milder cheeses like Caerphilly and Wensleydale which are better suited to a white wine in my opinion but lacks the intensity of a farmhouse cheddar which can sometimes throw a medium to full-bodied red. I tried it with a bottle of André Lurton’s 2004 Chateau La Louvire Pessac-Lognan from Bibendum, a mature Bordeaux of exactly the sort you might bring out with the cheese over Christmas and it was perfect.

Coincidentally I tried another aged Bordeaux (a 1999 Chateau Tour du Haut-Moulin which was drinking quite beautifully) with cheese the following day and found that although it was again overpowered by a ripe Brie it went really well with a Vacherin Mont d’Or, a combination I’d never have expected. I think it was probably because the cheese wasn’t that mature and the wine was. The problem with reds and cheese is mainly about unintegrated tannins. Older vintages seem to survive better.

* You can buy Sparkenhoe from The Fine Cheese Company and other stockists listed here.

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