By Nick Adams
Another must have for Christmas – cheese! Is there anything more appealing than a great cheese board on Christmas or Boxing Day? Sadly, the great Turkish fig season is over by then to go with it, but look out for Fenland winter (white) celery – a classic savoury accompaniment – and some good grapes (I love the “Muscat” flavoured Sable grapes). Quince paste or crab apple jelly are also a fine partner for cheese.
The paradox with cheese is that for all its dairy richness the very product is itself very acidic, as souring the milk to start the whole process of production is essential to allow the milk to coagulate. Do not be deceived by the more-ish richness – there lurks behind an acid grip! Therefore, a high acid, tannic red wine is maybe what you don’t need to accompany it. You may be pleasantly surprised that a fuller bodied weightier white wine works rather well – especially with nutty cheeses like Comté or a mature cheddar.
Sweet wines and Stilton cheese
Trusted old favourites such as Port and fuller bodied sweet wines work well with almost all types of cheese. I happen to live not that far away from the superb Stilton dairy of Colston Bassett – my own personal favourite for this cheese. They nearly always say when you buy directly from the dairy – and to quote – “this cheese has been made and matured at the dairy and is ready to be enjoyed right now”. Don’t pour any port into the cheese, simply drink it alongside the cheese. They would all curdle at the dairy at the prospect of this direct blending!
Also be aware that older cheeses tend to produce ammonia – this is especially so with blue and soft cheeses – you can just smell its acrid notes in an instant, and it is a complete killer for any wine.
Brie and Camembert
Letting a good Brie or Camembert run like Sir Mo Farah is not a good combination with any wine, however much you might like that style of cheese! In that case eat it on its own. Also, there is Roquefort, which is aged in salt, so wouldn’t be a good match for any red wine, but is wonderful with sweet whites. Here endeth the lesson!
Please remember these wines go a long way and you can continue to enjoy them over the whole holiday season – they also make a fine after dinner drink by the fire.
The Crowd Pleaser: sweet, rich, and plummy – serve cooled down
Try Something Different: very sweet, caramel, “rum’n’raisins”- serve very well chilled
Treat: sweet, full bodied, cherry liqueur, liquorice – serve at room temperature.
(NB this wine needs to be decanted – you can do this the day before by the way and will keep in the decanter comfortably for another week to enjoy over Christmas and the New Year)