Grapevine Archive for cheese
Sadly my dwindling stock of mature vintage port is not readily available this Christmas, so I decided to opt for a 20-year-old tawny port comparison.
Port because the gathered assembly regard it as essential to Christmas as it is traditional, perfect with nuts, cheese and those splendid preserved fruits that sit in the sideboard and taste even better at leisure on Boxing Day or the day after.
Indeed, my colleague Janet Wynne Evans has also pointed out in the video below that tawny port is often a better match than vintage for cheese.
20-year-old because it is the perfect age for tawny port. A comparison because there will be several of us and one bottle would simply not have been enough – and besides which some of us need little if any excuse to compare different wines.
They will be served cellar cool to an eager audience, and my guess is that Taylor’s (£34) may win for finesse and class. Graham’s (£37) will score well on account of its depth and rich fruit, and that Noval (£40) will seduce us with its charm.
I look forward to finding out.
Sebastian Payne MW
It’s currently British Food Fortnight, and with this in mind we are delighted to host this guest blog post from Ruth Raskin at The Fine Cheese Co. (suppliers to The Society’s gift range for a number of years), who highlights a number of innovative cheeses for adventurous palates to explore.
To find the perfect accompanying bottle for any of the below, The Society’s popular interactive Food and Wine Matcher has suggested wine pairings for a wide variety of cheeses. Look out for more goodies from the Fine Cheese Co. in our forthcoming 2013 Christmas Gifts collection, which will be available from mid-October.
Here at The Fine Cheese Co. we are constantly thrilled by the amazing creative energy of our British cheese makers. Never content to rest on their laurels, they are always seeking new ways to delight us with their latest creations. Here are some of our new favourite cheeses by our old favourite cheese makers:
Made by the Dyball family at The Traditional Cheese Dairy. The Dyballs have built up an excellent reputation for hard cheeses such as their Olde Sussex and Lord of the Hundreds but have long wanted to add a soft cheese to their repertoire. After much experimentation and development, the result is Burwash Rose, inspired by the kind of cheeses that would have been made by monks in monasteries centuries ago. The monks were not allowed to eat meat on Fridays or holidays and with over a hundred of these a year, a delicious cheese must have seemed like manna from heaven.
Burwash Rose has a supple, silky texture and a smooth finish. Its sticky pink rind and distinct aroma is produced by regular washing in English rosewater which also lends the cheese a delicately floral aspect.
The Dyball family acquired the Traditional Cheese Dairy in the village of Stonegate, East Sussex in November 2002 after turning their backs on a life of insurance broking and banking. The family are passionate about producing high quality, handmade, traditional cheeses using only raw milk from single farm herds and produce several of our favourite cheeses. They are equally passionate about animal welfare and have recently received a Good Dairy Commendation by the globally respected farm animal welfare organisation Compassion in World Farming.
This is a new cheese made by one of the oldest dairies in the country. The Skailes family have been making Stilton at Cropwell Bishop in Nottinghamshire for more than three generations. As a maker of the most traditional of British cheeses, the decision to experiment with a new style of cheese was quite a departure. Robin, one of the latest generation, has been tinkering with and perfecting the recipe for two years and is now finally happy to release it. The aim was to make a cheese inspired by the softer, milder Continental cheeses like Gorgonzola Dolce. The cheese is hand ladled into wider, shallower moulds and the cultures used to develop the blue are much milder strains than those used in Stilton. Instead of rubbing up the outside to create the characteristic rind of a Stilton, the cheeses are left to develop a thin crust. The resulting cheese is sweet and creamy with a buttery texture and a slight salty tang to the finish.
One of the many cheeses made by Pete Humphries of White Lake Cheese. Pete just can’t stop himself from experimenting and is always playing with his recipes to create a new cheese. Although Pete makes cheese in the very heart of Cheddar country just outside of Glastonbury, most of his cheeses are made with goats’ milk. His dairy is based at Bagborough Farm, home to 600 goats whose milk is transformed into Pete’s delicious cheeses. Tor, one of his most recent creations, is named after the famous Glastonbuy Tor which rises magnificently from the Somerset Levels. Tor resembles its namesake in shape. It is coated in ash, has a smooth, close textured interior and a light delicate taste which matures to a deeper tang.
Rory Stone took over cheese making on the family farm in windswept Tain, Easter Ross, in the late 90s. The dairy had been established in the 60s but at the time his mother was only making the traditional Scottish cream cheeses, Crowdie and Caboc. Rory loves to experiment and so slowly added to this by developing a brie-style cheese, and the increasingly well-known Strathdon Blue.
Recently he has been able to source ewes’ milk from a local crofter and has adapted his original brie recipe to the richer ewes’ milk to create a vegetal, velvety brie.
The cheese is named after the local Fearn Abbey which dates back to 1221.
The Fine Cheese Co.
An unplanned stop made this new discovery, with a little help from the France tourist bible Michelin, all the more special: a menu – a whole restaurant! – built around cheese.
The Restaurant La Laiterie at the Fromagerie du Col Beard is in the hamlet of Laye, around 15mins from the town of Gap (regular Tour de France country).
Jo Locke MW
Earlier this month I was Joined by Olli of The Fine Cheese Company and 45 members to spend a Saturday morning exploring the merits and pitfalls of pairing cheese and wine.
For a general theme on which we could base the workshop, we decided to pit French and English cheeses against one another. Whilst intended to be very tongue in cheek, this approach did throw up some interesting observations as to how far English cheeses have come in terms of sheer quality and range over the last decade. Whilst France did produce some beautiful well-made cheeses, the English cheeses were the stars of the show.
This being a cheese and wine matching workshop, we divided the cheeses into four pairs. First came the goat’s cheeses, Saint Maure from France and the English Ragstone, which work fantastically well with sauvignon blanc; here we tried the Reuilly, La Ferte from the Loire, and dry white wines with high acidity – the English wine Midsummer Hill was an excellent match.
Second we had the soft, bloomy cheeses with a Fougerus from France alongside an English Brie: here we matched the Fougerus with the Au Bon Climat Chardonnay from California, and the Sharpham Brie with Domaine de Escaravailles’ Rasteau. Next came the hard cheeses; a Cantal from France versus the award-winning Wooky Hole Cheddar from Somerset. These fuller-flavoured cheeses needed gutsier wines so we turned to the red wines. Help came in the form of Momo, a tempranillo from Spain, and The Society’s Exhibition French Cabernet Sauvignon.
We finished off the day with the blue cheeses, France’s Forme d’Ambert, and Stichelton. Relatively light and delicate, the Forme d’Ambert called for a sweet wine which wouldn’t overpower it, so we plumped for The Society’s Exhibition Sauternes, working on the salt/savoury and sweet theory. The Stichelton called for something far more powerful, so we turned to the classic combination of Port and Stilton, choosing The Society’s Crusted Port for the finale.
Apart from enjoying spending a morning in the company of fellow cheese lovers, we also learnt a few things, mainly….
- When looking to match cheese and wine the most important thing is to be aware of balance. Match cheese and wine of equal weights, or one will overpower the other.
- Either match like with like – the creaminess in the brie was matched with the creaminess in the Au Bon Climat Chardonnay – or go for the opposites attract philosophy: the extreme saltiness and savouriness of blue cheese works very well with a sweeter wine.
- Salt makes tannins in a wine appear harsh, so choose a red with plenty of fruit.
- When looking to make a cheese board, try pairing one amazing cheese with one wine that will match it beautifully – it’s very difficult to find one wine which will work well with the array of cheeses you usually find on a cheese board.
- Look to the classics for inspiration: Port and Stilton, sauvignon blanc and goat’s cheese, gewurztraminer and Munster from Alsace: these regional partnerships have worked together since time immemorial for a reason.
- Enjoy experimenting – after all, that’s the only way you really get to figure out what works for you!
Tastings & Events Co-ordinator
The Society currently stocks four cheese and wine selections for Christmas, which can be viewed here.
Finding a wine able to complement a range of different cheeses can be a challenge. Some outspoken gastronomic experts even deem it an impossibility given the sheer scope of flavours and textures on offer.
Most cheese falls into one of five or six family groups: goat and sheep’s milk cheese, hard or cheddared cheese, bloomy cheeses (camembert and brie), washed rind cheeses (epoisses, munster etc) and blue-veined cheese.
Generally speaking, certain styles of wine will work better with each of these groups, but a good cheese board will probably include examples from all of them. So how do you find a wine that can cope with a strong, salty cheddar, a pungent goat’s cheese and a ripe camembert? This was the challenge we set ourselves when choosing wines for our special Christmas cheese and wine cases.
The line-up of cheeses included representatives from both sides of the Channel. In the French corner, we had:
Brillat Savarin – a triple-cream, soft cheese, made with unpasteurised cow’s milk with a deep, earthy and salty flavour.
La Graine de Vosges – a washed-rind cow’s milk cheese; pungent but with an unctuous, creamy and earthy flavour.
Vacherin Mont d’Or – a seasonal cow’s milk cheese made on the Swiss border shaped in cloth-lined moulds then encircled with a strip of spruce bark and washed with brine for at least three weeks. The spruce imparts a resinous flavour to the pale interior of the cheese which becomes almost liquid as it matures.
Bleu de Chevre Cendre – an unusual ashed and soft blue goat’s milk cheese made from the milk of Alpine dairy goats.
… and in the British corner were:
Cornish Smuggler – a hard cow’s cheese with lovely acidity and creamy texture and a soft red veining through the cheese.
Sharpham Brie – soft, unpasteurised, full-flavoured almost fruity creamy brie.
Ragstone – creamy, pronounced flavoured goat’s cheese from Herefordshire.
Golden Cenarth – award-winning washed-rind organic cow’s milk cheese from west Wales Its smooth interior texture in contrast with its interesting, sweet rind.
We tried a raft of different bottles with the cheeses (the idea was to choose French wines to go with the French cheeses) but as the tasting went on, one wine seemed to bring out the best in all of the cheeses, French or British again and again…The wine was Midsummer Hill 2010. This English white blend from the Three Choirs vineyard in Gloucestershire is comprised mostly of madelaine angevine, seyval blanc and phoenix – in such a way as to be refreshing, light (10.5% alcohol), flavoursome and zingy – in sufficient quantities to take on all comers.
Yet another feather in the cap of a wine that’s been a patriotic Society favourite for some time now, so I thought I’d share the news. Should you wish to try it and indeed other English wines besides, The Society is currently running an offer enabling members to do just that!
For most retailers, the emergence of blossom and daffodils means one thing…. Christmas!
As scary as this may sound, in one of my previous jobs you knew that you were in for some long nights and a fair amount of earache if the Christmas product plans weren’t done and dusted by this time. Luckily for us at The Society, we currently have the time to look back over last year’s performance and learn the lessons in time to plan for this year.
Last week, I had my initial Christmas planning meeting with The Fine Cheese Company, where I was struck by the parallels and the differences between the wine and cheese worlds; beyond both being region-specific, crafted, natural products from lauded producers. Most winemakers generally only get one shot a year to harvest the vine that will set their fortunes for the next year, while cheesemakers have several.
However, there are seasonal variations in the style of the cheese according to the quality and nutrition of the grass fuelling the milk production. So where for retailers spring can be a harbinger of long nights of range meetings, for cheesemakers it can’t come a moment too soon, as the spring / summer milk brings with it cheese in peak condition.
As with wine, some cheeses are best enjoyed in their youthful freshness and others require time to develop their signature texture and flavours. However, with modern techniques of breeding and feeds, the seasonality of cheese is becoming a thing of the past.
The only truly seasonal cheese that remains is Vacherin. In the summer, the cows graze on the top of the hills and the milk is used to make Comte, but by autumn the cows are brought down to the plains are fed on a diet of manufactured feed and silage, which make the cheese more intense and creamy.
I was amazed to discover how the first release of the new season’s Vacherins is akin to the races for Beaujolais Nouveau of old – and often sold in a similar way to our opening offers, to the extent that Vacherin will outsell Stilton for fine cheese merchants in the run-up to Christmas.
The more unscrupulous merchants will rush the new cheese to market in early autumn, while those like The Fine Cheese Company prefer to wait until the cheese is ready. Luckily for us, this fabulous cheese is at its gooey best in December, in time for our gift offerings.