how to pair cheese and wine...when the Geeks met the Grapes!
Posted at 15:00 • 28 June • Amy Baker
Ever wondered how to pair cheese and wine? Well wonder no more. We had Fred and Clémence from Honest Grapes join our team for a mammoth tasting. The parameters were simple: you bring the wine, we’ll bring the cheese...let's make some pairing magic.
There were a total of 17 cheeses on the table. The Grapes had delivered some exquisite bottles and we set off on our cheese and wine tasting journey to bring you a cheese and wine pairing guide. Here are the highlights plus some expert insights from our new Master of Wine Ali Cooper who tasted along at home.
First a breakdown of the wines from Ali:
Citrussy aromas abound in this biodynamic beauty from The Mosel Valley. Lemon verbena and quince aromas have you salivating before even sipping. Tantalising acidity guides this wine like a laser missile with a subtle creaminess and salty twang supporting the beautiful orchard fruits. If you could bottle springtime…
Mercurey is a source for fantastic value for money red Burgundy (Pinot Noir), not something that’s easily found! Dark cherry and fresh leather marvellously mingle with mulberry and raspberry fruit aromas. This wine saturates your mouth with ripe, dense dark forest fruits, kirsch and super smooth tannins. From a warm and ripe vintage this still has a lovely sense of freshness – which means that it is oh-so very moreish.
Sangiovese is one of Italy’s superstar grape varieties and this is a classic example. Pale crimson in colour with red fruits, dried leaves, tobacco and cranberry leaping out of the glass. Sipping this is like strolling through the woods on a sunny autumn day hunting for truffles, earthy crunchy and vibrant red berry fruits just make you smile. Super smooth and seductive - a real autumnal beauty.
The Grapes also snuck an extra dessert wine named Barsac just for us at Cheese HQ...sorry Ali! If you want to dive it any of these pairings for yourself, head over to the Honest Grapes site and use discount code CHEESE10 for £10 off your first order over £100. Valid for ‘Sommelier Selection’ wines and ‘Mixed Cases’ only, not valid on Dom Perignon and Nyetimber wines.
Winslade X Clemens Busch
The first fireworks come with Hampshire Cheese’s mellow Winslade and the fresh and fruity Riesling. Winslade is a creamy, silky smooth cheese and generally, the creamier cheeses need some acidity to cut through the richness which is why we decide to go with the Clemens Busch Riesling. The subtlety of the Winny allows a floral woodiness to come through from the Riesling. They’re dancing together in the mouth. QOTD from Edward “I can smell the sweet sap off the tree! I...I can hear pine needles under my feet!” Travel restrictions?! This cheese and wine pairing will transport you to a leafy forest.
Ali not as big a fan as us but agrees the Riesling “really allows the cheese to show”
Tor X Clemens Busch
A Riesling rarely meets a cheese it doesn't like so we’re sticking with the Riesling, but we’re moving onto White Lake Cheese’s ashen goat Tor. The brightness of the wine cuts through that goaty tang and brings out herbaceous notes and complementing the rind of the cheese. Here Edward points out that Tor works on this pairing because it is very like a French style goat. English varieties tend to lean towards sharper, fresher, more citrus notes. Consensus is a beautiful summer pairing!
Ali “The acidity of the Riesling really cuts through the creamy ashy notes of the cheese...brings out the citrusy mandarin skin flavours in the wine. Really beautiful tang!”
Isle of Mull X Raquillet
Edward explains that Isle of Mull is a really special cheddar because of the sea-salty, wind swept terroir of the pastures the herd grazes on. Harsh Scottish Autumn/Winter months means that the makers have to be resourceful and supplement the herd’s feed with fermented grain (a waste product from a local Distillery). This struggle against the elements produces a cheese with a completely unique flavour profile. Fred makes the parallel between a challenging environment for grape growing and incredible end products...we all get very geeky about it! With the light pinot noir we get intense smoky meaty flavours. Annabel, one of our cheese gurus, says cheeseburger with gherkins. The intense savouriness of the Mull is jamming so beautifully with the fruity pinot noir.
Ali wasn’t as taken with this pairing “Really creamy cheese that seems quite heavy. For me the cheese exacerbates the oak in the wine – not a match for me”
Vintage Lincolnshire Poacher X Romitorio
The Geeks are excited for this one. Poacher is an in-house favourite and is well known to pair incredibly with just about anything. The Romitorio Chianti is slightly fuller bodied than the pinot noir, robust enough to stand up to Poacher’s punch, you know it's a good pairing when this happens. Edward’s been transported again...we’re in his kitchen, we’re making cheese on toast, it's under the grill, the cheese is bubbling and edges of the toast are just catching...YUM! Fred explains that those smoky toasted flavours are coming from the oak maturation the wine goes through. Then a lovely warmth in the back of the throat with a lovely stewed plumminess to finish...utterly delightful! Poacher...you’ve done it again!
Ali “Nutty and delicious cheese! The rind just changes everything – really brings out the leafiness of the wine and highlights a lovely sweetness. The wine really lets the cheese shine here – this is a friendly coupling. I love the nutty almond kernel character of the cheese and the wine lets that express itself. In the end you are left with a delicate nuttiness as well as a clean and beautifully defined finish.”
Cornish Kern X Romitorio
We’re staying in Italy with the Chianti but hopping over to Cornwall for another Cheese Geek fave, Cornish Kern from Lynher Dairy. Kern adds style and character to any cheeseboard and has a lot of versatility when it comes to cheese and wine pairings. Thus, the sweet yet nutty Kern is really grooving with the Chianti. There’s notes of treacle tart with smoky peanut in the mix too! We’re loving it!
Ali “What a gorgeous cheese! The wine cuts though the creaminess and exacerbates the acidity of the cheese. This shows really lovely weight and nuttiness – A silky smooth combo – on it’s own the rich caramel nature of the cheese needs a lift of acidity and this wine just does that beautifully. A winning combo.”
Ogleshield X Romitorio
The Italians are on a roll here! It's Chianti again, this time with the subtle yet funky wash rind Ogleshield (we'd recommend leaving this washed rind cheese off the board until you are ready to serve). Ogleshield is made by the lovely folks at Montgomery's with rich and buttery jersey milk so the inside has a beautiful golden hue with a sticky peach coloured rind. The Chianti really cuts through the funk of that wash rind, big wines suit this type of cheese so we're pleased with this pairing. There's a definite peanut skin coming from the cheese and the wine is really adding to the rich creaminess of that jersey milk.
Ali “Bacon fat and creamy taste and smoky with an onion note...The wine tastes a bit metallic on the finish”
Spenwood X Raquillet
Yet another treasured CG number, Village Maid’s sheepy showstopper...Spenwood made by Anne Wigmore & Co. This English pecorino style sheep cheese is deeply savoury, creamy and incredibly moorish and we're smitten with it through and through. Typically you'd pair with a full bodied red like a Chianti, but WOW the Pinot Noir is bringing out amazing flavours here. We’re getting quince membrillo, it’s fruity...it’s jammy...we’re sold.
Ali “What a stunning cheese –it has a lovely acidic snap and the wine mellows the piquancy of the cheese. An explosion of berry fruit, this is like getting into a warm bubble bath, so soothing and all enveloping.”
St James X Clemens Busch
Martin Gott’s stunning St James is really one of a kind. Ed explains that Martin is one of only a handful of cheesemakers who makes his own starter cultures. This means that St James is truly the embodiment of the beauty of artisan cheesemaking, and telling the honest, unfiltered story of the land. There is so much variation. You can try one batch and not recognise the same cheese in the next. So even the Geeks don’t know what’s in store. We start off just trying the cheese, Edward isn’t talking so we know something mad is happening. WOW! This batch is like nothing the Grapes have ever tasted. It’s seafoody...and not in a bad way! We’re getting mussels, or is it oysters? So we take a risk, let's go back to the Riesling, let’s pair our seafood with a white. The gamble pays off! We’re getting some notes of hay and as suspected the white is dancing beautifully with that oyster umami, cutting through and delivering a clean floral finish.
Ali “A gorgeous pairing – the rind really brings out a mushroomy character in the wine. And the cheese really allows the acidity of the wine to come through. Lemony flavours are the star of the show here, citrus and a wonderful slatey character. Like strolling up the steep slopes of The Mosel.”
Stichelton X Barsac
Onto the blues. The Grapes are excited about the Barsac, what looks like a golden nectar in a bottle that is, in the Geek’s opinion, a little too small. It’s a sweet dessert wine, but not too sweet and with a herbal complexity. The Grapes are certain that this is going to be the blues’ best friend. We’re trying with Stichelton which Edward explains is made by Jo Schneider using traditional Stilton methods but using raw milk so cannot be called Stilton. We say a rose by any other name! This batch of Stichelton is salty with a strong blue hit...not a million miles from marmite vibes! The Barsac mellows that blue and gives a jammy fermented fruit flavour with a spicy finish.
Buffalo Blue X Barsac
This batch of Buffalo is pretty strong and farmy. We tried unsuccessfully with the reds which just enhanced the farminess...Edward said “it's like I’m licking a buffalo”...oh dear. So we head back to the silky syrupy Barsac. The wine is cutting through that farminess and mellowing the spice of the intense blue. It really levels out the flavour and works well with the creamy texture cheese. Barsac has tamed the bull!
We’re all exhausted. We’re all very full. But it was worth it for some truly magical tasting moments! With all tastings, we've experimented, as well as gone for some tried and tested classics, and at the end of the day personal preference is a key factor in cheese and wine pairings. Thank you Ali and Honest Grapes for embarking on this cheesy journey with us. Now maybe it's time for a nap...
Don’t forget, you can use code CHEESE10 at the Honest Grapes online bottle store to pick yourselves up some vivacious vino and get £10 off your first order over £100 to taste along with us. Valid for ‘Sommelier Selection’ wines and ‘Mixed Cases’ only, not valid on Dom Perignon and Nyetimber wines.