My first adventure in pairing wine and cheese started with a book. Would it be successful? Or a discordant flop?
What to chose? There are a lot of different cheeses and lots of different wines, the permutations seemed daunting. Here’s where the book came in, read on a rather long train journey back home to Scotland.
“Tasting Wine & Cheese” by Adam Centamore seemed to cut through the complexity and make the task of successfully pairing wine and cheese something achievable.
Combined with the book’s mouthwatering photographs, I was inspired!
The Cheese? Keeping it local!
Finding myself in St Andrews on the first Saturday of the month I suspected the regular Farmers Market might be the ideal spot to find some good cheeses. My plan was to focus on Scottish cheeses, the more local the better.
I found exactly what I was looking for. A local family run farm, making all their own cheeses, the St Andrews Farmhouse Cheese Company.
After a helpful chat with the son, I selected three cheeses.
A mature cheddar and their artisan cheese Anstor, both smoked and unsmoked.
What wine to pick?
I knew I couldn’t stay local with my wine, Scotland not being known for its wine. But I had heard good things about an independent wine shop in St Andrews, the St Andrews Wine Company.
Walking into a wine shop, with its shelves and shelves of bottles can seem daunting. To make it more more manageable I had already decided to narrow my search to just white wines.
I knew my cheeses would be quite dense in texture, particularly the cheddar, and with a mature cheese and a smoked cheese, the flavours might be pretty full-on. This meant I was looking for a wine with enough body and flavour to hold its own.
I thought flavours of toasty oaky should go well with the mature and smoked cheese but I didn’t want too much in case it overpowered the unoaked cheese.
A white Burgundy would be one option but I wanted to try something different. Fingers crossed I would find inspiration.
Discovering my wine!
And so it proved. I explained my mission to the owner, Peter, and he took on the task of helping me with relish and enthusiasm.
After a great discussion about wine, various options considered, I walked out of the shop with a £15 bottle of Californian Chardonnay called Poppy.
I felt please. It wasn’t a wine I would have chosen without Peter’s input so I had succeeded in trying something new.
What was the wine like?
The wine had delicious fruit flavours of lemon and apple with toasty oak spice, not too much though, so shouldn’t overpower my cheese choices.
I particularly enjoyed the buttery creamy texture with enough acidity to make a nicely balanced, tasty refreshing wine.
I will be having this again!
But, did the wine and cheese work together?
Yes but in different ways.
The unsmoked artisan cheese, Anster brought out the toast in the wine whilst still allowing the lighter flavours of the cheese and wine to come through. I loved how it made the texture of the wine seem smoother and richer.
The experience with the smoked Anster was quite different. The wine brought out the smokiness of the cheese making a much richer taste experience.
The densely textured, richly flavoured mature cheddar made for a taste powerhouse with this wine. The toasty oak spice flavours of the wine became almost burnt when combined with the maturity of the cheddar. This was my personal favourite combination as I love these types of spicy flavours.
If you prefer something lighter, the unsmoked Anster would be ideal.
So, was my adventure a success or a flop?
A big success!
I found wine and cheeses I loved and I enjoyed the whole process enormously.
From researching my options, to selecting my wine and cheeses, to the actual tasting, it was great fun. With the added bonus of meeting interesting people on the way.