Wine and cheese. Sounds simple, no? But with about as many styles of cheese as there are wine, it would be ridiculous to assume that they all went together. Quite the opposite. We held a tasting to find what we thought was best, but ultimately there are no right and wrongs. The most resounding result of the night was simple - people who attend a wine and cheese tasting generally like wine and cheese. Move over, rocket science.
After a short introduction by Marc on some general food and wine matching principles, we dug into the first pairing of the night.
Jansz NV Sparkler - Tasmania, Australia & Parmesan
Quirky and a little bit unexpected, this went down a treat. One of my matches, I introduced it by proclaiming Champagne and Sparkling wine in general as THE best wine for food, owing to the huge range of styles and the generally high level of acidity. Blanc de Blanc for Fish & Chips, NV for cheeses and white meats, Rose for Tapas, Demi-Sec for fruit-based puds. All of them, one after the other, preferably!
Ballandors, Quincy - Loire, France & Crottin de Chavignol
Goats cheese and Sauvignon Blanc might be cliched, but damn is it good! The Loire Sauv was fresh and herbaceous, the mineral streak acting as a deft cutlass slicing through the soft, fatty creaminess of the cheese. B, E, A oootiful.
Turckheim, 'Brand' Gewurz G.C. - Alsace, France & Munster
By far the most controversial pairing of the night, and like the last one, another French pairing from our French manager Marc. The Gewurz was truly sensational, honeyed and floral, spicy and delightful. The cheese was stinky and cloying. The general consensus was that the wine didn't have quite enough acidity to deal with the cheese, but that separately, they were pretty special.
Palacios Remondo, 'Propiedad' - Rioja, Spain & Manchego
I think just about everyone in the room was astounded by the unbelievable softness of this wine. By no means a traditional Rioja, but not a beefy modern one either. The year of oak beautifully consumed by the sensual, sexy red fruits, this was a real palate cleanser for the hard Spanish cheese. Marc's last pairing.
Duval, 'Entity' Shiraz - Barossa, Aus. & Vintage Cheddar
This surprised a lot of people too. The Shiraz was beefy but so elegant and so primed for food too. Lots of dense black fruits with some spice and incense aromas, but refined and classy - the crunchy fruits playing off the crunchy cheese, both gradually melting in the mouth.
Niepoort, 'Tawny Dee' en Magnum - Douro, Por. & Stilton
The best value Tawny Port in the world. Easy drinking but refined and full of savoury, nutty flavours (as one would hope) this was my last easy match with the stilton. As I rather cheekishly said to a customer who admitted that he didn't like Port, 'It has been scientifically proven that there is something wrong with you'. Too True, too true.
The cheeses are worthy of a mention too, which we had purchased from the Cheese Hamlet in Didsbury, a tiny award-winning cornucopia of cheeses and other gastronomical goods.
The night was a riotous success, with a real atmosphere amongst the conversation and consumption. The winning combination for the evening? A tie between the Parmesan and Jansz and the Quincy and the goats cheese. The French domination in this department has been challenged by... the Italian/Australian mongrel. I'd say Reserve Wines has it again for innovation!