We recently held a cheese and port tasting at our flagship Jermyn Street shop in collaboration with our port supplier Taylors. The ports that were tasted at the event all came from Fonseca, a sister producer to Taylors, and Amanda Lloyd from the house was there on the evening to help talk about the Ports.
Hero Hirsh, our head of retail, explains:
“With Christmas just around the corner we start to think about festive food and cheese. One of the most popular ways to enjoy cheese at this time of year is with a glass of Port.
Stilton is often the cheese associated with Port but with so many delicious cheeses and fine Ports available we decided to see if other artisan cheeses could be enjoyed with this historic tipple. During the evening we discovered some fantastic matches and I hope that you get the chance to enjoy some of these when Christmas arrives.”
The matches were as follows:
Cheese: Berkswell (£40.00/kg) (Unpasteurised, traditional rennet, ewes’ milk) This award-winning cheese is made by the Fletcher family in Warwickshire. It is renowned as one of the most delicious, consistent quality ewes’ milk cheeses available. Made in the style of a Pyrenean cheese it has a rustic, orange brown crust. The interior is almost translucent and pale white in colour with a firm crumbly texture and the flavour is savoury yet with a fruity quality that fills the mouth.
Port: Fonseca Siroco (RRP £17.00) First introduced in the 1950s and named after the warm wind which blows over the Mediterranean from North Africa, Siroco is a blend of classic white Port grape varieties grown on the cooler, higher vineyards of the Douro Valley. To achieve its crisp dry finish, the wine is made in the traditional way, by foot treading and is allowed to ferment for longer than other styles of Port before it is fortified. Ageing in small oak vats gives Siroco its smoothness as well as its attractive ripe fruit flavours and delicate nuttiness. A superb balance of ripe fruit, delicate acidity and elegant notes of wood aging. Full and fruity on the palate with a lingering finish.
Why it worked: The fruity notes found in both the cheese and the Port worked beautifully together.
Cheese: Red Leicester – Sparkenhoe (£25.00/kg) (Unpasteurised cows’ milk, traditional rennet) This is the only Leicester to be made on a farm with raw milk in Leicestershire. It is made by the Leicestershire Handmade Cheese Company in Upton, a small hamlet in the South West Leicestershire countryside, on a working dairy farm called Sparkenhoe Farm. The flavour of the cheese is nutty and complex, with deep caramel and liquorice undertones which completely set this cheese apart from generic Red Leicester.
Port: Fonseca Bin 27 (RRP £13.50) Fonseca Bin 27 was launched in Britain 40 years ago and today, continues to be blended from selected reserve Ports chosen for their smooth, round, full bodied palate and their fine, intense fruit character. The wines are matured in large seasoned oak vats to give them smoothness and complexity while retaining their intense and vibrant fruit character. Blended for consistency and quintessentially Fonseca in style, Bin 27 is bottled when ready to drink. Displaying an intense rich fruity nose of blackberry, cassis, cherry and plums, interwoven with notes of spice. The palate is full bodied and round, with a smooth velvety texture and mouth filling tannins.
Why it worked: Territorial cheeses, due to their subtle flavours, can often be overlooked when it comes to pairing them with wines. What was really delicious about this pairing was that that caramel, almost toffee like, flavour of the cheese married perfectly to the red fruit flavours in the Port.
Cheese: Mossfield Organic (£39.00/kg) (Pasteurised, vegetarian rennet) An organic hard cheese made in Southern Ireland. With a rich colour and the full flavour of an aged Gouda, it is made by Ralph Haslam on Mossfield Farm, County Offaly. The cheese is creamy when younger with a nutty flavour similar to Gouda and a hint of herbiness from the Mossfield grass. With age, the cheese becomes harder and more crumbly with a stronger flavour.
Port: Fonseca Terra Prima Organic (RRP £18.00) In 2002 it became possible for the first time to produce a Port made entirely from grapes derived from certified organic viticulture and Fonseca was one of the pioneers of this. Terra Prima, is an elegant reserve blend, displaying fresh vibrant fruit, in which organic viticulture has allowed the traditional port grape varieties to express their natural aromas to the full. A wonderfully rich, concentrated Port with great flavour and texture. It has an opulent black fruit nose which is followed through on the palate showing layers of intense berry, plum and cherry fruit flavours.
Why it worked: The creamy, herbiness from the flavours of the cheese balanced the intense red fruit flavours of the Port. This was one of the most popular matches of the evening.
Cheese: Stilton PDO* (£27.00/kg) (Pasteurised, traditional rennet) This is a truly exceptional example of one of England’s most famous cheeses, with a herby tang and rich creaminess. This Stilton has been graded and chosen to meet the flavour and texture profiles specified by Paxton & Whitfield. Stilton in prime condition has a grey, wrinkly crust and the inside should be creamy yellow with an even spread of blue-green veins. The strength of the flavour should not be overpowering but have a pleasant, herby tang.
Port: Paxton’s Vintage 2000 (RRP £35.00) Vintage port is the most rich, full-bodied style of port and is the classic style, for which port has gained its reputation. Made in only the best years, the wine is matured for a short time in wooden casks and bottled when young, without filtering. This means that it continues to develop and mature in the bottle. This style of port gives big flavours and a rich body, it is best suited to blue cheeses and other strong styles. This vintage Port has a good depth of flavour and substantial structure. It can be enjoyed for the next 10 years and we recommended that it is decanted before serving.
Why it worked: A classic pairing – the creamy, buttery flavours of the Stilton with this classic, big flavoured Port.
Cheese: Beauvale (£29.00/kg) - (Pasteurised, traditional rennet) This is a relatively new cheese to the artisan British cheese fold. It was developed by Robin Skailes of Cropwell Bishop Creamery, Paxton & Whitfield’s Stilton supplier. Part of the inspiration for making Beauvale was to provide a handmade British substitute for all the soft blue cheeses that are imported from the Continent. The flavour is full and predominantly savoury, with a delicious bit of spice. It has a firm texture when young and begins to break down as it ages, developing a runny centre.
Port: Paxton’s 10 year Old Tawny (RRP £19.95) ‘Tawny Port’ is a technical term rather than just a name. It contrasts with the traditional ‘Vintage’ port as it is matured in oak casks for a long time before being bottled. Our tawny port spends 10 years in this wooden cask, over that time much of the yeast and the sediment from the grapes drops to the bottom of the cask and the wine changes from a deep, dark red to a soft tawny brown. More subtle and gentle than vintage port, this tawny is mellow and elegant, combining delicate wood notes with rich
aromas of mature fruit. This Tawny Port has been bottled for immediate drinking and does not need decanting.
Why it worked: This more subtle Port with its delicate red fruit and woody notes was a sublime match to this soft, flavourful blue and its hint of spice.
Cheese: Stichelton (£33.00/kg) (Unpasteurised, traditional rennet) Stichelton is made using very small quantities of starter culture and rennet, and as a result the acidification is very slow and the curds are very delicate. The resulting cheese has deliciously complex flavours that change with the seasons and develop with age. The texture is creamy and buttery. Spicy notes come through from the blueing which sit alongside nutty, savoury and milky, sweet flavours.
Port: Fonseca Guimaraens 2004 (RRP £28.00) Blended from slightly less powerful components than classic Vintage Ports, Guimaraens Vintage Ports are made in years when the wines are more supple and early maturing. They differ only in that they are more approachable, ready to drink earlier and for their quality and rarity, offer exceptional value. A huge amount of depth and backbone to this finely tuned Port. Everything is in harmony and perfectly balances. The dark berry fruit flavours marry exquisitely with the tannins.
Why it worked: The balanced berry fruits and tannins in this Port worked extremely well with the savoury, milky and sweet flavours in the Stichelton.
For more information on the Fonseca Ports featured and where to buy them in the UK visit: www.fonseca.pt