Wine columnist Clare Morris has over 10 years’ experience in the drinks industry consulting with, hotels, restaurants, pubs and bars across the UK. She is currently studying for a Diploma at the WSET London Wine and Spirit School.
The Ultimate Match
It really wouldn’t be the festive season if I wasn’t allowed to overindulge in cheese. When I was a student my cheese consumption used to consist of mild cheddar and the odd bit of mozzarella when it came attached to a pizza. Back in those days the cheese aisle at the supermarket was a somewhat confusing place – a bit like the wine aisle – but compared to the great array of products available to us now, it seems a tiny range in comparison.
Thankfully now the world of gastro pubs has made the traditional cheese board ‘cool’ again and it’s acceptable to be seen eating from one for anyone under the age of retirement. I’ve broadened my food horizons quite significantly since my university days – as well as wine, thankfully, with the bottles of Lambrini and sweet pink stuff firmly banished to the memory banks. However, with all the different cheese options available and an increasingly diverse range from the UK, it’s impossible to know everything inside out. Which is why it’s always great to get a cheese board with some unknown names and new flavours. Yes it’s a confusing category but – like wine, it’s easy to find one that you like. And on a cheese board it’s highly likely that you will find more than one that surprises you.
The other great thing, in my humble opinion, is the surprisingly versatile range of wines that work really well with different cheeses. In particular I’ve been surprised at white wine options with cheese. You do have to think about the type of flavours you’re pairing but some combinations are definitely worth the experimentation. Of course, if you’re more of a traditionalist then the heavy red or port choice is always a good one. Either way, here are a few options to get your taste buds tingling. It is the festive season after all, and where would we be without a little self-indulgence?
Bocabar at the Paintworks, Bristol
This venue is one of those places that truly works well all year round. It’s light and airy in the summer and wonderfully cosy and atmospheric in the winter. I could stay for hours lounging on sofas with lamps and candlelight at this time of year. Bocabar had the great idea of rotating a set of cheese and wine matches each week in the run-up to Christmas so there’s always something new to keep you interested. Far be it from me to tell you which is best – I suggest you try them all and decide for yourselves.
White Wine: Rare Vineyards Marsanne Viogner
Cheese:Cornish Yarg Ripe fruit and richness to balance the savoury and tangy flavour of the cheese.
White Wine: Denbies Flint Valley
Cheese:Somerset Brie The lightness and zestiness of the wine will balance the elegant, yet creamy flavour of the brie.
Red Wine: Armindale Estate Unoaked Cabernet Sauvignon
Cheese:Worthy Farm Cheddar Here we have firm tannins to soften the tanginess of the cheese – giving it a richer flavour and smoother texture.
Red Wine: Barossa Valley E Minor Shiraz
Cheese: Exmoor Blue Almost port-like in its flavour, this Shiraz will beautifully match the intensity and saltiness of the cheese.
Rose Wine: Fair Horizons Pinotage Rosé
Cheese: Pennard Ridge A light and fruity option for our wine is exactly what a goats’ cheese needs.
The Albion, Clifton, Bristol
A true gastro pub, by which I mean a beautifully rustic and British pub-feel, serious wine list and interesting, excellently-presented food menu. Gastro pubs get a bad press but for me they are everything that I love about the British ‘on trade’ – somewhere to relax with a top-quality drink, plus the option of a great meal without having to move so much as 20 yards down the road. The Albion has a fabulous new wine list ready to launch, which has some lovely options to pair up with our cheese quest. This cheese board is a mix of British and French artisan cheeses served with walnut bun, chutney and oatcakes – something for everyone. I love the rich fruit flavours of the Blackstone Merlot from California, the perfect match of quality and depth yet wonderfully easy to drink. If you want to go the whole hog, you can indulge in a single quinta port by Dow’s. Single quinta ports are made from a single vintage, in years not deemed quite good enough to reach vintage status. They offer excellent value for money and personally, I couldn’t tell the difference from a vintage!