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Wine and cheese: how to pick a match made in heaven

Fri 03 Dec 2010 12:16


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Wine and cheese are often classed as perfect partners; there are after all many well known pairings such as Port with Stilton and Sauternes with Roquefort.

But by its very nature cheese can be very hard to match wine with. It can be fatty and mouth-coating, high in salt, high in acidity and can have very strong flavours, all of which can cause problems when trying to select a wine.

As a general rule of thumb, white wines tend to go better with a broader range of cheeses than red, which is another myth exploded!

The safest bets are often medium-bodied, dry and unoaked whites. If choosing a red, go for something a little lighter without too much tannin – a Cabernet Franc from the Loire, a Beaujolais or a Dolcetto from the north of Italy could be worth trying.

Serious hard cheeses, such as good quality Cheddar, Parmesan or aged Gouda can work really well with a good quality red, especially one that has a little bottle age to soften the tannins.

Here are wine connoisseur Tom Cannavan and cheese expert Phoebe Weller’s wine and cheese ‘perfect partners’ if you’re not sure where to start.

1. Tom matches Phoebe’s cheese selection:
Phoebe picked Gouda, a traditional mature Dutch cheese. This particular one, which is widely available in supermarkets, had a nutty and almost sweet flavour.

Mature Gouda is a world away from the commercial stuff, having been aged over 24 months to give a tangy, nutty, full-flavoured cheese, and this is a cheese that’s worth wheeling out a decent red for.

So Tom selected Muriel, Rioja Reserva 2004, Spain, priced at £9.99 from Majestic (or get two at £6.99 each until end January 2011). This Rioja has six years of age, loads of fruit with flavours plums and cherries, and a bit of sympathetic vanilla oak which does the trick.

2.  Phoebe matched Tom’s wine selection this time round
Tom selected Taste the Difference Goose Valley South African Chenin Blanc 2009, £7.49 at Sainsbury's. This Chenin Blanc comes from Maestro of the grape Ken Forrester, who has created a dry, quite full-bodied with some honey and lovely apple fruit flavours, but still with very good acidity.

Phoebe decided to go for Golden Cross, a young English goats cheese which is made from unpasteurised goats milk in a farm in Sussex. It’s velvety in texture and quite goaty and citric in taste, with a sweet finish, and matches up well with the wine.

3. Tom matched Phoebe’s cheese selection
Phoebe picked Nuns of Caen,  a washed rind sheep’s cheese, which is a new variety from the people who create Stinking Bishop.

A variation on their infamous washed rind cheese, it’s made of sheep’s milk and it has a wonderfully surreal name.
Covered with a soft, damp orange rind, this cheese is pale – almost white – inside, and dotted with little holes.

It’s got a pungent, foot-ish whomph, cut with a boozy, alcoholic note. The extra richness of the sheep’s milk means that it’s wonderfully creamy and luscious and sweet. To match up with this unique cheese, wine guru Tom picked Domaines Brocard, Chablis Premier Cru 2008, from France, priced at £12.99 at The Co-operative.

This is serious Premier Cru Chablis, made from 100 per cent Chardonnay, and is beautifully crisp on the palate with pristine orchard fruit flavours and a lemony finish. This wine has the dry but steely character with tastes of lemons, apples and pebbles, to cut through the strong flavours of the Nuns of Caen washed rind cheese, and the acidity slices through the creamy texture.


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