So I promised you more wine from our fabulous Celebrity Cruise, and one of our favourite sessions was the wine and cheese pairing workshop with Oz Clarke and Tom Forrest from Vinopolis.
Basically, as part of the immersive wine cruise there are all sorts of different talks, sessions and workshops you can join – all in quite small groups so you get to ask questions and have a chat with the fellas about the wines. You also get to visit vineyards with Tom and Oz which is an amazing experience and not to be missed.
As my Disreputable Dad and his wife Alf are into their wine and cheese, I decided to try and attempt a wine and cheese pairing evening with my new-found knowledge acquired on the cruise (and a bit of help from the lovely Tom Forrest!).
We started with a dry Harvey’s Fino, served chilled with salted nuts and olives. A perfect combination.
The original pairings on the cruise were:
1. A young goat’s cheese with a Sauvignon Blanc.
Basically the acidity in the Wild Rock ‘The Infamous Goose’ Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand went immensely well with the acidity in the Crotin de Chavignol cheese. The wine has loads of green notes (green apple, gooseberry) which are classic indicators of acidity, mirrored within the fresh-tasting cheese.
I loved this pairing as I adore goat’s cheese, but we missed this one out as Mr English isn’t a goats cheese fan, and swapped in the Manchego instead (see below).
2. Soft cheese with a Chardonnay
Tom explained that the Brebiou soft sheep’s cheese we tried has a lovely creamy mouth feel and the ripe fruits and oaky notes of the Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay (Walker Bay 2010) echoed this perfectly. On tasting, the wine actually felt thicker textured in the mouth and was a lovely, soft match to the creamy soft cheese. My notes just say ‘yum’ which sums it up really!
We tried: Camembert with Asda Extra Special Chardonnay which worked really well. The buttery textured Camembert matched the equally buttery Chardonnay perfectly.
3. Hard Sheep’s Cheese with Fleurie
Tom and Oz both agreed that the actual wine we tried (Joseph Drouhin, Fleurie, Beaujolais) was a bit too ‘serious’ and was an okay match for the nutty tasting Ossau-Iraty hard sheep’s cheese from the French Pyrenees, but not fabulous.
We tried: Ossau-Iraty with a Chateau Bellevue Gazin Côtes de Blaye 2009, a Bordeaux wine from our lovely Harrods hamper. We thought that the smooth claret was a lovely match for the nutty, mild cheese and thought that maybe there was a touch of earthy flavour in both the wine and the cheese.
4. Montgomery cheddar with Grenache
This was a fabulous combination – salty, savoury cheddar mixed with the bold, ripe sweetness of the D’Arenberg ‘The Custodian’ McLaren Vale 2009 Grenache. A brilliant marriage of sweet and salty.
We tried: Pilgrim’s Choice Mature Lighter cheddar with a Paul Mas Grenache-Syrah 2012 from Waitrose. The rich, cherry notes in the wine were the perfect sweet accompaniment to the strong cheddar (which is a lower fat one, but you’d never tell).
Manchego cheese and Pedro Ximenez sherry
I also wanted to slot my favourite Christmassy drink, Pedro Ximenez sherry somewhere into our tasting evening. I was originally going to pair it with the Roquefort, but Tom thought it might be too sweet and recommended pairing it with Manchego. Of course he was spot on and the dry, savoury Manchego went perfectly with the rich, raisiny Pedro Ximenez (Triana – Majestic Wines).
5. Stilton and Port
A classic combo, on the cruise Tom paired a Taylor Fladgate Tawny Port (10 year old Douro) with the salty, tangy Stilton. The smooth, sweet port was a perfect balance to the salty cheese.
We tried: Cockburn’s Fine Ruby Port with Aldi’s Specially Selected Half Moon Stilton. I adore port but I’m not hugely keen on blue cheese, but I do think that this is the best way to eat it – the sweetness of the port takes the edge off the Stilton and brings out the savouriness, somehow.
6. Muscat with Roquefort
This was a revelation. Again, I always thought that I didn’t like Roquefort – it’s really strong, and much tangier with a stronger blue mould taste than the Stilton. The fragrant, honeyed taste of the Klein Constantia Muscat (Vin de Constance 2005) from South Africa, however, made me change my mind – the sweetness seemed to soften the taste of the cheese, bringing out the salty flavour but making the blue taste seem less overpowering somehow.
We tried: Brown Brothers orange Muscat and Flora, 2012 and it definitely worked. The Muscat is served chilled and is deliciously sweet and fragrant, but still fresh.
What a fun evening. I learned so much on the immersive wine cruise and would definitely go on another one to keep expanding my wine knowledge and grasp the opportunity to taste more fabulous wines. It’s s lovely to learn something that you can keep using when you get home. Having experts on hand definitely enhances the whole experience, and we made some wonderful friends too.