Last week we held our first Booze & Cheese Tasting of the year with our wine merchants Berkmann Wine Cellar. Matt from Berkmann joined Claire for the evening to talk our guests through the wine and why we paired them with the cheeses we had chosen.
We selected five wines from our shelves and paired them with the cheese we thought would work best. Pairings can work extremely well, where the wine actually makes the cheese taste better or vice versa. Conversely they can also be a complete disaster where the wine makes the cheese taste completely inedible, and again vice versa. Some pairings are not so extreme, and in these cases the success of the pairing can be subjective with the success of it based very much on personal opinion and food preferences - in these instances there's not necessarily a right or wrong answer. You are never going to get a blue cheese hater to think a wine paired with a blue cheese is a great pairing!
When it comes to pairing we tend to follow two vague ideas. Firstly match the body of the wine with the body of the cheese - the bigger and bolder a wine is the bigger the cheese should be in flavour. So as we went through the evening we moved from the most delicate softer wines through to the bigger bolder wines finishing with our LBV Port. As such throughout the evening we moved from the freshest cheeses to the strongest finishing on one of our strongest blues we stock.
The other principle we tend to use as a starting point is geographical / terroir. Historically residents of an area would have eaten and drunk the products they produced on their own land - that's what they make, that's what they know, why would they go further afield to buy other products? Great at keeping their carbon footprint down I guess!
There is also an argument for terroir here where the wine takes on the characteristics of the ground the vines are planted in, the same way that the animal producing the milk will be eating the same ground with the same characteristics. Because of this terroir there will naturally be similar flavour profiles in both the cheese and the wine, and other items such as charcuterie, produced in a particular area. We like to think these flavours will then work well at complimenting each other.
To give you an idea of our pairings to use yourself at home, we tasted:
1. Parmesan with Prosecco
2. Crottin with NZ Sauvignon Blanc
3. Tunworth with Pinot Noir
4. Manchego with Rioja Crianza
5. Young Buck with LBV Port
The winning combination of the night was number 4 - our 6 month Semi-Curado Manchego with the Rioja Crianza - this is a great example of the wine cleansing the cheese from the mouth with the tannins in the wine complimenting the maturity of the cheese perfectly.
The surprise of the night was the Young Buck - we had two guests who do not like blue cheese who absolutely loved it. For such a strong (probably one of our strongest) blue cheese to be liked by non-blue cheese fans this is testament to an extremely well made nicely rounded cheese!
The absolute favourite cheese of the night was Tunworth and many were purchased to take home and enjoy. It was ripe, smelt amazing, was soft and gooey, the strength of flavour was incredible and it was finished off with a delicious saltiness in the mouth. A winning cheese and rightly so, this is consistently one of the best cheeses produced in our country right now.
When it came to choosing the cheeses for the night there are a couple of observations to make, firstly we managed to find five cheeses from five different countries - England, Italy, France, Spain and Northern Ireland. Secondly we inadvertently chose some of the best cheeses from those countries, where small family run artisan businesses are carrying on generations of producing cheeses in traditional methods, no industrialisation here. It truly was a celebration of small-scale production at it's finest.