Our Saturday cheese course sessions are designed to be a little bit more relaxed but cover more ground with more wines and cheese spread over three hours.
The France & England afternoon soon became a contest as we matched similar style cheese from each country against each other and paired them with a French wine and another from elsewhere.
England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland are producing fantastic cheeses at the moment and should be spoken about in the same breath as anything from France or Italy.
We commenced battle with a look at the extraordinary triple cream Delice de Bourgogne and a lusciously creamy cheese from Totnes called Cremet. The Totnes cheese was stronger and more intense than its French counterpart.
As a result, the Sauvignon Blanc Badassiere from the Languedoc worked well with the Delice but capitulated to the Crmet with a Sicilian Grillo being the surprise top match.
The Goats locked horns in what became a bit of a no contest. A fresh Loire Valley Rond de Lusignan was textured yet delicately flavoured. In contrast, the St Thom from Worcestershire was at the zenith of its powers.
Simply oozing intensity it was by far the best cheese. The two wines – a Verdejo from Rueda in Northern Spain and a Northern Rhone Viognier struggled to contain the St Thom but worked well with the Loire cheese.
The next section took a long hard look at the world of washed rind cheeses. This where the rinds are brushed with a brine, ale, cider, wine, spirit or any number of things. This imparts a unique pungency and often a stickiness to the rind which makes for a real distinctiveness.
The famous Stinking Bishop from Gloucestershire is washed in Perry for example. Alongside the Bishop we had a brine washed Gubbeen from County Cork, a marc de Gewurztraminer washed Trami d’Alsace (similar to Munster cheese) and a Soumaintrain washed in brine and marc de Bourgogne from Burgundy.
The Pouilly-Fuisse worked with the gubbeen thanks to the delicacy of the cheese but succumbed to the pungency and the intensity of the other three.
|We then compared a South African and Alsace Gewurztraminer with the sweetness of the Alsacien winning through. An Alsace Pinot Gris also worked well with the cheeses.
A highlight of the afternoon was the legendary Vacherin Mont d’Or. Only available between November and February this cheese was in peak condition and had to be spooned onto the plate.
It worked well with a Mercurey 1er Cru and a South African Pinot Noir.
A trio of hard cheeses were next in the fray. A ewe’s milk cheese from East Sussex called Lord of the Hundreds was perfectly mature and had a manchego feel to it; Le Massadel from the Midi had a good intensity and texture, while the Mimolette from Northern France was dense and creamy.
The surprise best match was a Nerello Mascalese/Nero d’Avola blend from Sicily which had lots of fruit but was not overly tannic. The Syrah from the Languedoc and the Gigondas suffered a bit from their tannins competing with the texture of the cheeses.
We rounded off the afternoon a couple of blues – A Fourme d’Ambert from the Auvergne and an Oxford Blue. They both matched perfectly with the lesser known Jurancon from south west France. Just enough sweetness for the moderately powerful salty blues.
The verdict – English cheeses were voted the winners by 5 – 2.