Cheese-making is a truly ancient art. No-one really knows who made the first cheese but according to ancient legend, it was made accidentally by an Arabian merchant.
Before setting out on a day’s trek across the desert he put his supply of milk into a pouch made from a sheep’s stomach, as you do, and lo and behold the natural rennet in the lining of the stomach combined with the heat of the sun, caused the milk to separate into curds and whey.
Later that evening, bivouacked in a convenient oasis the merchant found that the whey satisfied his thirst, and the curds, which had a delightful flavour, satisfied his hunger.
Doubtless apocryphal, possibly the propaganda of some ancient Arabian Dairy Association, one thing we know for sure is that cheese predates recorded history.
Wine, on the other hand, is far older than recorded history, emerging with civilization itself from the East. The evidence from tablets, papyri, and Egyptian tombs fills volumes.
Mankind, working, whingeing, worrying and battling comes upon the scene with the support of a jug of wine to ease his passage.
Whilst Pharaonic wine is somewhat too remote to have any meaning, the current ‘age of wine, has traceable roots that begin with the Greeks and Phoenicians who colonized the Mediterranean about 1500 BC.
The wines of Greece were lavishly praised and documented by her poets while much was written about wine and wine-making in ancient Rome, their greatest writers, even Virgil, writing instructions for winegrowers.
But it was the Romans who were to set the stage for today’s wine. They had all that is necessary for aging wine, not being limited to earthenware amphoras like the Greeks, although they used them.
They had barrels just like modern barrels, and bottles not unlike modern bottles, since the art of glassmaking came from Syria to Rome. As Rome spread across the globe they took with them the art of wine production to satisfy their needs. The quantities they drank, though, were prodigious There is more than enough evidence that the infamous ‘Roman Orgy’ is far from being a latter day flight of fancy!
Who then, in their right mind, would dare to suggest that the combining one ancient art with another could possibly result in a refined social event, such as the ‘Cheese and Wine Party’ He, or she, must have been a cream cracker short of a picnic!
However, during the course of the twentieth century just such a thing happened. With the supply of wines and cheeses from around the world becoming ever more available, and thereby cheaper the fashion spread. The Cheese and Wine Party had arrived!
How then, does one decide which wine goes best with which cheese? Does a strong cheese require a soft wine? A mild cheese a more powerful vintage?
Well as it goes, there are no hard and fast rules. The suggestions I give below are by no means set in stone because when push comes to shove, personal preference rules.
There are two ways of going about it. The first is for the host to choose a selection of 3-4 wines and 5-6 cheeses, provide a selection of breads and crackers and to allow the guests to mix and match as they please.
The second is to request a cheese, wine, bread or cracker of personal choice from each individual guest and let the fates decide.
Cheese and their Wines :
Bel Paese Italy – Fresh, light red, eg Barbera or Chianti
Bleu d’Auvergne France – Full bodied reds, eg Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Côtes de Rhône
Brie France – Fruity reds eg Merlot or Pinot Noir, a good white Burgundy or Cider
Camembert France – A good medium red, eg St. Emilion
Carré de l’Est France – Light, spicy whites eg Alsace or a good Chardonnay
Cheddar Great Britain – A good claret eg Burgundy, Côtes de Rhône or a strong, dry white eg Sauvignon Blanc, any English White, cider, pale ales or a good Port
Chevres France, Italy – Good, full whites eg Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé or Loire
Caerphilly Great Britain – English whites or dry cider
Cheshire Great Britain – A good Burgundy, any English white or pale ale
Danablu Denmark – Forceful reds, eg Rhône or Rioja
Double Gloucester Great Britain – Good Southern Italian whites, French or Spanish reds or traditional English bitter
Edam Holland – A fine red, eg Bordeaux, Zinfandel or Merlot
Emmental Switzerland – Fresh whites eg Fendant or young Beaujolais
Gorgonzola Italy – Full reds, eg Barolo, Recioto
Gouda Holland – A fine red, eg Bordeaux
Gruyère Switzerland – Fresh whites eg Fendant or young Beaujolais
Lancashire Great Britain – as for Double Gloucester
Leicester Great Britain – Robust Italian whites, French or Spanish reds or traditional English bitter
Mozzarella Italy – Fresh whites, eg Soave or Verdicchio
Munster Alsace – Spicy white, eg Gewürtztraminer, Madeira or Belgian ale
Pont l’Evêque France – A fuller Beaujolais, eg Moulin á Vent
Port Salut France – The lighter reds, eg Beaujolais or Bordeaux
Provolone Italy – Fruity reds, eg Burgundy, Bordeaux
Reblochon France – Savoie wines, both white and red and full Rhône reds
Roquefort France – Glowing, somewhat fearsome reds, eg Cahors, Rousillon and Châteauneuf-du-Pape or sweet wines eg Sauternes, tawny port or amontillado sherry
Saint-Paulin France – Light, agreeable whites eg Sauvignon Blanc
Stilton Great Britain – Full, ripe reds, eg Saussignac, Monbazillac or vintage or Tawney Port
Tilsiter Germany – Fresh whites eg Rhine, Moselle or soft reds eg a fruity Merlot of Pinot Noir
Wensleydale Great Britain – As for Cheddar