You will all, I assume, have yesterday been celebrating one of the highlights of the British calendar: National Cheese and Wine Day. Other than being an amazing excuse to eat loads of cheese and drink loads of wine, the day was also the perfect opportunity to ask my cheesemonger friend about the secrets behind the perfect cheese and wine combinations.
Jessica Summer is founder of luxury cheese and wine company Mouse & Grape. We know cheese and wine make great bedfellows, but could she give the occasion a national twist? I headed to my local Waitrose to select a few British bottles to see what Summer would pair them with…
CHAFOR ESTATE BACCHUS BUCKS vs RACHEL, WHITE LAKE DIARY, SOMERSET
Bacchus grows so well in the UK and this still white is full of citrus zest. Summer produced “Rachel”, a hard goat’s milk cheese, claiming the high acidity of the wine would go well with the citrus notes of the cheese and that “fresh wines like Bacchus and Sauvignon Blanc make goats cheese come alive”. This one is a classic pairing and a bit of an easy win.
LECKFORD ESTATE’S 2019 SPARKLING BRUT, HAMPSHIRE vs TUNWORTH, HAMPSHIRE
I smelled the cheese before I saw it, a Tunworth from Hampshire, with a distinctive vegetal honk. It is not the cheese for a date, or small enclosed spaces. “This might not be fireworks in your mouth,” said Summer, “but it’s a tried and tested match. The creamy cheese is mouth coating and the bubbles of the wine cleanses your palate and sets you up for another bite”. The wine lifted each bite of the incredibly potent cheese, making for a useful if not magical pairing.
RIDGEVIEW’S BLOOMSBURY NV, EAST SUSSEX vs HIGHMOOR, OXFORDSHIRE
A richer sparkling but still with a lovely fresh crispness which made the Highmoor, a washed rind cheese, taste fruitier. The creaminess of the bubbles was echoed by the creaminess of the cheese and with both halves being equally flavourful and powerful it created a lovechild of deliciousness in the mouth. As complimentary couplings go, this was extremely good, but it was the next one that really blew my mind…
CHAPEL DOWN’S ROSÉ 2022, KENT vs PECORINO, YORKSHIRE
Wow. The ripe fruitiness of the pink wine alongside the nutty saltiness of the Sardinian style cheese was a game changer. This is the kind of relationship everyone wants: by being together, their best qualities came to the fore, neither one dominating or dismissing the other. Individually both were nice, but combined they shone like stars and had a ridiculously long, tasty finish.
SIMPSON’S PINOT NOIR 2020, KENT vs SAINSBURYS CHEDDAR
The humble cheddar is the UK’s favourite cheese but what happened here was totally unexpected. At first bite I was surprised by a sophisticated smokiness. “You’re trying to achieve different things with a pairing” explained Summer “before we were playing up the fruit, but this makes something savoury, earthy, smoky”. Never has a Sainsburys cheddar seemed so stylish.
BALFOUR HUSH HEATH ROSÉ 2018, KENT vs BEAUVALE, CROPWELL BISHOP, NOTTINGHAMSHIRE
The creamy gorgonzola style cheese was already exciting, with pockets of blue exploding through its velvety texture. But add in the effervescent complexity of Balfour’s rosé and this was a match that had me looking at Summer with love in my eyes. And not only because we were six glasses deep. I would usually go for a sweet wine with a blue, but my eyes have been opened to sparkling rosé as well as to the excellent cheeses the UK produces.