WINE O’CLOCK: Say cheese – and pick a wine to make you smile
Whatever happened to wine and cheese parties? They used to be very popular. Charities ran them to raise money and cheapskates, who didn’t want to fork out for a real party, would buy some cheese and leave it to their guests to provide the wine.
They seem to have gone out of fashion along with cheap Liebfraumilch and processed cheddar that could bounce like a rubber ball.
But decent cheese and fine wine do go very well together and there are so many lovely Irish cheeses on the market nowadays that there’s always a good excuse to try out a new combo.
As a rule, hard cheeses such as cheddar, manchego and parmesan go with red wine.
Avoid eating runny ripe cheeses, of the Brie and Camembert type, with tannic reds such as those from Bordeaux – they are not a good mix. A more gentle red, such as a Pinot Noir, is a better bet, or a Chardonnay, Pinot Gris or Alsace Riesling.
But there are really no rules about it. Mix and match and see what you like. Here are a few of my favourite combinations:
Hegarty’s Cloth Bound Cheddar (Dunnes) with Santiago, Merlot (€11.95, Wicklow Wine Company)
This is a lovely, mellow cheddar with a nutty flavour made in a traditional cloth-bound process by the Hegarty Brothers of Cork. The cheese is quite mild but this red wine, with its autumn fruit flavour and chocolate texture, does not over-power it.
Cooleeney Farmhouse Cheese (SuperValu) with Meyer-Fonne, Cremant D’Alsace (€29. 95, Le Caveau, Kilkenny)
The cheese is made by Breda and Jim Maher on their farm near Thurles, Co.Tipperary. It’s a soft white cheese which slices nicely to eat on biscuits or crusty bread. It holds its shape well enough to be fried and is a good partner for sparkling wines. The Meyer-Fonne is Champagne by another name. All the sparkle and flavour but not so expensive.
Ardsallagh Goats Cheese Cranberry Roulade (Sheridans) with Chateau du Coing de St Fiacre Chardonnay (€14.99, Worldwide Wines, Waterford).
Made by the Murphy family on their farm in east Cork. This is a delicate goat’s milk cheese with a swirl of cranberry adding a fruity sweetness. A dry white is a good accompaniment. The Chateau du Coing is a cross between Chablis and Muscadet with flavours of pear and gooseberry.
A smooth white wine, with a citrus tang and a sweet after-taste. The Brie is firm with a mild, creamy flavour. The wine is from South Africa, the cheese from France.