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Go on, be a rebel

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I’ve been on wine courses. I’ve munched my way through cheese nights. I still know next to naff all about both! Usually when I buy wine and cheese for a dinner party or Christmas I look at the label, and the cleverest name or prettiest label usually win.

None of us need or particularly want to be nose-in-the-air connoisseurs but I confess I’d like to buy with a bit more knowledge, so with that in mind I have roped in a pro, Mike Boniface, who manages the award-winning wine and cheese deli No2 Pound St in Wendover. He, um, knows a bit about this kind of thing.


By Mike Boniface

Port with Stilton, Sauternes with Roquefort, Red Burgundy with Brie or Camembert, Loire Sauvignon Blanc (Sancerre, Pouilly-Fume etc.) with goat’s cheese – there are some wines and cheeses that just ‘go’ together, But these combos are very specific and not always that helpful when thinking about menu-planning.

Also, wine styles can vary enormously. Two wines from Bordeaux half a mile apart can be entirely different, due to acidity, tannins, sugar levels, yeasts, grape variety blending, maturation and so on. The same is true for cheese – even a single Cheddar from the same producer can taste different depending on what time of year it was made, or even what day of the week the milk was taken.

What this means is that the old rules are often nonsense! Let’s make some new anti-rules!

 Rule 1. Don’t worry about it too much. Unless you carefully choose one wine and one cheese to match (which is handily known as a ‘Hero’ cheese board!), no single wine will match an entire cheeseboard. Port (especially the lower tannin Tawny style) generally goes well with Blue cheese but would kick the fresh goat’s cheese right into touch. Maybe you could serve five wines to match five cheeses? Maybe you could hit yourself over the head with a frying pan!

Rule 2. If you are going to worry about it and want to make a broad stab at it, then go for sweeter rather than dry. A sweet (or off-dry) white will do a better job at coping with soft, mould ripened, hard, aged & blue cheese, than a heavy red ever could. Off-dry German wines, despite being continually unfashionable, are a great option, as are sweet wines from the Loire (Vouvray, Montlouis etc), Bordeaux & Alsace in France.

Rule 3. You don’t have to have cheese at the end of the meal; traditionally it’s done by the French to mop up the remaining dry wines on the table (and I think it is better rather than to keep on drinking them with the dessert). You may stumble across a good cheese-wine match but it will probably be as much by accident as anything else. You could serve a couple of light, fresh cheeses with a dry white (Chenin or Sauvignon Blanc perhaps) at the start of a meal and I’m sure everyone would be very happy.

Rule 4. Don’t forget Sherry! Dry, nutty Sherries (Amontillado and Dry Oloroso especially) go really well with good Cheddar such as Montgomery or Keens. You can use the cheese board to get out other drinks that you often don’t drink; try good Madeira or a smokey Single-Malt Scotch with Mature Cheddar, Tawny Port with Blue. But maybe don’t try that lurking bottle of Advocaat with Stinking Bishop!

Rule 5. Drink whatever the hell you like. Drink that great bottle of Burgundy/Bordeaux/Brunello/Amarone/whatever, that you’ve been saving, or that expensive white Burgundy or wine that you brought back from holiday. You’ll be too busy enjoying yourself to notice if it happens to clash a bit with some of the cheeses….as long as it’s good wine, good cheese and good company, it all works.

Rule 6: Of course there is one final rule: go and see your independent wine merchant and cheesemonger ie. No2 Pound Street. They know what they’re talking about!

No2 Pound Street, Wendover, Bucks, HP22 6EJ. Tel: 01296 585 022.

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