Cheese and wine evenings may sound like the very definition of ‘posh’ to some people and perhaps a thing for the overly fussy when it comes to food, but to others, particularly people keen to develop their knowledge of wine, they are a great learning opportunity.
When these are held as formal events you may leave with a deeper knowledge of what tipple goes with which fromage, but there are limits to what such an event can achieve; it cannot and will not cover every sort of wine or every kind of cheese. That means you need to research further to get a wider knowledge.
The sheer numbers show why this is so. There are lots of different wines out there, making a full array of tastings an event you may struggle to remember by the end. Even then, it might leave out unusual drinks like organic orange wine.
So it is for cheese. In the UK alone there are now over 700 named kinds of cheese, from familiar types like Stilton, Cheddar and Cheshire to unusual types such as Wigmore, Lincolnshire Poacher, or Lord of the Hundreds. (For comparison, France is said by some to have only around 300, although other definitions put the figure nearer 1,000).
According to Countryside Online, there are some great combinations to be enjoyed between British cheeses and wines. These include pairing Stilton with port, Baron Bigod (a Camembert-style cheese) with a Burgundy, while Edmund Tew goes well with Champagne, and Cornish Kern with a Chardonnay.
A key point to note, of course, is that the cheeses on the list are British while the wines are mostly not (matching Caerphilly with a sparkling English white is an exception), although the site does also suggest various beers and ciders to match them with too. However, the key to a match is not the location but complementary flavour.
The question of what to do with more unusual kinds of wine requires a deeper investigation. Orange wine is a good example of this as it is not normally considered in a list of wines to match cheese with.
However, Culture Cheese Mag does make some suggestions, though these depend on the variety of orange wine. It suggests saltier cheeses for Georgian orange wine, a cheese with “plenty of personality” for the sharper Italian types and a “funky” cheese with an American version.
The key for a British wine drinker is to find cheeses from the UK that match to these wines. The saltiest cheeses do tend to be from overseas, such as Roquefort, Feta, or Halloumi, but there are still some with salty flavours, notably white crumbly cheeses like Cheshire or Lancashire.
Describing a cheese as having “plenty of personality” or “funky” makes it a little hard to pin down, but the obvious conclusion to draw is that orange wine should not go with mild cheeses (so leave out Ticklemore). Instead, a strong blue or perhaps a fruit-infused cheese could be the way to go.
Of course, you don’t have to take the expert opinions too seriously; they are not written in stone and some may find completely new combinations of cheese and tipples they like. After all, as you learn more about wines, or indeed cheese, you will have fun discovering many more great pairs for yourself.