With Christmas now less than a month away, we can't help but start to think about what is going to feature on our Christmas cheese board this year. Better yet, which wines are we going to match them with?
We couldn't think of anyone better than wine expert, writer and presenter of The Wine Show Joe Fattorini to recommend his Christmas cheese and wine pairings. Like Joe, we will of course be using our "One Glass for Every Wine" Jancis Robinson wine glass, which comes in handy in situations such as this as we'll be tasting whites, reds and sweet wines!
Cropwell Bishop Blue Stilton is an award-winning, traditional handmade cow’s milk Stilton that is made using methods that have changed very little since the 17th century. During its maturation of 12 weeks, Cropwell Bishop Stilton is rubbed with salt to develop a strong and rich but creamy cheese with a lingering tang. The flavours are strengthened by the blue mould veins that run throughout. The texture is velvety soft but firm, and the rind is brown and wrinkled, with a salty kicker.
"For strength, bring sweetness. For power, bring body. This is a twist on the traditional combination of Port and Stilton. But with Italian style. Amarone’s distinctive production method of drying grapes makes a concentrated, rich style of wine. It’s the perfect partner to the pungent crumble of an aged Stilton."
"Food and wine evolve together. Often for centuries. In this case for millennia. Ossau-Iraty is a 3000 year-old cheese, predating the European alphabet. And it’s the pride of The Basque Country. Which also includes Rioja Alavesa, or in Basque: Arabako Errioxa. The supple, berry and vanilla of this Rioja Gran Reserva are a joy with the Sheeps’ milk tang of the Ossau-Iraty. For best results, serve the Rioja a little cooler than room temperature."
"Few cheeses reflect their “terroir” as much as Comte, who even have a touring “jury terroir” to report on the distinctive variations that the Jura region brings out in its cheese. Appropriately no other grape reflects its origins as precisely as Pinot Noir. Like this from Greywacke, capturing the long, clear sunny days of New Zealand and precise, focussed fruit. Comte needs fruit, but tannic subtlety. And this is a gorgeous combination."
Vacherin also features here, and this might come as a surprise to some, given it is notoriously one of the most difficult cheeses to pair, but given its winter seasonality we couldn't not include it as it's one of our favourites! We would recommend a Vacherin with no other than a light Pinot Noir.
Aged for around 10 weeks and wrapped in Spruce bark, Vacherin is the icon of seasonal cheeses – being available only from September through to March. It is made with milk from Montbeliarde cows after they have come down from their summer Alpine pastures to the valleys during the winter months where they are fed on hay and kept inside. The milk yield is a lot lower when they are inside which means the fat content of that milk is much higher. The result of this is Vacherin (from the French side of the border) or Vacherin Mont D’Or (from the Swiss side of the border). It is super creamy and sweet, with added woody flavour from the Spruce bark it is wrapped in. It has a luxurious silky texture when fully matured and can be spooned right out of its box.
"If there’s one word that captures Brie it is creaminess. And a wine has to balance that richness and mouth coating texture, without overwhelming the brie with its own aromas or powerful flavours. A fresh, zesty Chardonnay is the wine to go for. Like this fabulous Macon from the southern part of Burgundy. Fragrant lemon-citrus aromas and a just a touch of oak giving the wine a balanced softness."
"There are few rules in food and wine matching, but goats’ cheese and sauvignon blanc is an exception. There’s something about the leafy, crisp, gooseberry fruit of sauvignon that complements the earthy tang of goats’ cheese. That earthy character also needs something simple and clean. Like the minerally sauvignons of the Loire or, here, the stylish and intense sauvignon of the Adelaide Hills, overlooking the city, and capturing the balanced climate of the south Australian uplands."
"It’s always fascinating matching a newer cheese with wine, but English Ogleshield finds its roots in ancient, washed-rind styles like Tomme. It shares a similar pungency, and like pungent blue cheeses and aged, runny cheeses, the best matches are sweet. Vin Santo is made from dried grapes, concentrating the sugar, but also the keen zesty acidity. That gives a wonderful balance to Ogleshield’s creamy, softer texture. This is a match made in heaven – Vin Santo was never more appropriate."
Christmas is certainly a very busy time for us all, so we like to save ourselves the hassle of venturing out in the blistering cold and order from our favourite Modern Cheesemonger, The Cheese Geek. They do an amazing selection of Christmas Cheese Boxes to feed up to 16 people which means you'll never have to do any late night trips to the cheesemonger again.
It's no secret we also love the beautiful Hampson Woods cheese boards. They are all made in small batches, sustainably and with the utmost care. They will only work with arborists who are transparent about the provenance of the wood, and will even use trees that have fallen in and around London. As London-dwellers ourselves, this is something we're mighty proud to support.
The above wines can all be sourced from supermarkets or in independent wine stores. We love this website to source wines.
Thank you to Liberty Wines for supplying us with our paired wines!
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