CellarVie Wines tracked down the youngest married Masters of Wine in the business, Susie Barrie and Peter Richards, in order to get their expert opinion on the perfect wine and cheese pairings. The dynamic duo are stalwarts of BBC1's Saturday Kitchen and also ambassadors for Mercure Hotels' new wine concept, Flavours from the Cellar…
Finding the right wines to pair with food – as we do on Saturday Kitchen – is one of the most enjoyable and fascinating parts of our job. There’s always something new to learn and discover (both good and bad). We’ve had to take up running such is the calorific impact of our thorough research!
Cheese is a particular favourite. Though we have different favourites – Susie loves her halloumi, goat’s cheese, comté and gruyère, while Peter’s more of a cheddar, mozzarella and parmesan man – we both love the massive diversity of flavours and that lovely savoury mouthful that always ensues.
Putting wines with cheese isn’t an exact science. We’d encourage everyone to experiment to find the right wines for them with their favourite cheese – it’s a very personal thing. The good news, and a really important point to stress, is that it’s a totally open playing field when it comes to cheese. Don’t be restricted to what you might think are the traditional options of claret and Port. Tangy whites, oaky whites, succulent rosé, juicy reds, sweet wines and even sherry can work well.
We’ve thrown in a couple of suggestions from the wines we’ve chosen to go on the Mercure’s new wine list, Flavours from the Cellar. With these and the other suggestions below, there’s only one thing to add: cheers!
The famous French soft-ripened cheeses such as Brie and Camembert have a mild, creamy flavour and often a hint of mushroom that sit wonderfully alongside a glass of Pinot Noir. Nothing too fine or complicated though, either a pretty young Bourgogne Rouge or a lighter style of summer-fruited Marlborough Pinot will provide the perfect, easy-drinking match.
When it comes to the gentle, milky flavours of Italy’s best-loved soft cheeses it pays to stay local. A light, floral Gavi or delicately aromatic Fiano will bring out the very best in these deliciously subtle white cheeses.
Stilton, Roquefort, Gorgonzola
The classic match of Blue cheese with Sauternes or Vintage Port is hard to beat. It’s all to do with the salty and creamy nature of the cheese being offset by the sugar and acidity of the wine. For something a bit different stay sweet but go for a deeply coloured and raisiny Banyuls or Maury from the South of France.
: Passori Rosso Veneto 2013
– not as sweet as the wines suggested above but with the same velvety texture and dried fruit character that suits blue cheese so well.
Edam and Cheddar are relatively versatile when it comes to wine. With a particularly mature and yeasty cheddar it’s best to stick to the wines suggested for hard-aged cheese (see below). However, for medium cheddar or Edam, either an un-oaked chardonnay or a soft, moderately rich red – think Rioja Reserva or a merlot-based Bordeaux blend – will all sit happily together.
Gruyere, Parmesan, Comté
When matching hard cheeses such as these, you can’t beat a rich, buttery, oaked white. Whether from Burgundy, the New World or even Portugal, the creamy texture and fresh acidity of the wine works beautifully with the intense, nutty flavour of the cheese. Comté is best with a fruitier style whilst Parmesan suits a wine with a little age.
Mercure Selection: Adega de Pegoës 2013, Portugal – a beautiful, oaked chardonnay blend that is like a mini Burgundy with a unique hint of candied orange.
Hailing as it does from the Haut-Savoie in France, it’s no surprise that the ideal partner for the mild, savoury and nutty flavours of Reblochon is a light and refreshing glass of Savoie white.
Époisses has to be one of the most difficult cheeses to match a wine to. Its smell is so pungent and its flavours a combination of salty, sweet and spicy. Although, given its origins, you could try it with a glass of fine red Burgundy, which would do a decent job with a young Époisse, the older and runnier the cheese the more powerful the wine needs to be. A traditional choice is Sauternes or, for the more adventurous amongst us, why not marc de Bourgogne, given Époisse’s rind is washed in the stuff.
Whether grilled (Halloumi) or crumbled (Feta) these super popular sheep’s milk cheeses are most often used to add an indulgent kick to a hearty summer salad. With this in mind, go for a crisp Mediterranean white such as an Assyrtiko from Greece, or a fruity garnacha rosé from Spain, to match their salty, creamy flavours.
There is simply no competition when it comes to goat’s cheese; it has to be Sauvignon Blanc every time. With a very young, mild and chalky cheese Sancerre makes a stunning match, whilst more intensely flavoured examples suit the punchier character of a New World wine from South Africa, Chile or New Zealand.
At an early age this delightfully easy going, Spanish ewe’s milk cheese is happy with either a juicy young red Rioja or a fresh, herbal Albariño. As it ages and intensifies, so should the wine, and an old, truffley, oaked white Rioja is perfect.
Flavours from the Cellar will be rolled out across the UK in 2015. All three of the wines selected by Peter and Susie are available in all of the 72 hotels across the UK. For further details or to book a stay, please visit mercure.com.