Seasonal tipples – cheese and fortified wine pairings for Christmas

Seasonal tipples – Stilton with ruby or tawny Port is a classic combination at Christmas. However, there are plenty of other fortified wines that are a magical match for cheese.

Sinodun Hill & White Port

A curveball pairing that shouldn’t work on paper, but comes together with oh so easily in real life. Sinodun Hill is a soft goat’s cheese from Oxfordshire, which has a mousse-like texture and rich, double cream quality. You might think a fortified wine would overpower it’s pure, lactic flavour, but white port is dry and refreshing, often served chilled as an aperitif. Try Taylor’s Chip Dry – a classic example, which bursts with crisp citrus notes, adding zip and zing to the cheese, while also bringing out a lovely almondy flavour.

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Montgomery’s Cheddar & Madeira

They don’t come more traditional than Montgomery’s Cheddar, made with raw milk on a farm in Somerset. This cloth-bound mature cheddar hasn’t changed much since cheesemaker Jamie Montgomery’s grandfather first started making it. Tangy and brothy with a firm, snappy texture it calls for a robust pairing. Step forward Henriques & Henriques’ 10-year-old Sercial Madeira, which has bags of juicy acidity and complex notes of walnuts, almonds and citrus peel. The two dance together in a complex tango of flavours.

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Cheddar & Madeira

Manchego and Palo Cortado

Matching Manchego and sherry is a no-brainer. The nuttiness of both cheese and wine fit together in a very pleasing way. Fino and Amontillado are often recommended, but also look out for Palo Cortado, which sits somewhere between dry Fino and nuttier oxidative Oloroso.

Dry, saline and hazelnutty, it’s a marvellous match for a ‘semi-curado’ (semi-cured) Manchego, especially the malty, macadamia flavours of Brindisa’s 1605 cheese. A slice of membrillo and a crunchy cracker are obligatory finishing touches.

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Baronet & Vermouth

Washed rind cheeses are a tricky match for many wines – their pungent aroma can be overpowering. But vermouth is up to the challenge. A fortified wine with botanicals, most importantly the bitter herb wormwood. It has enough power to match the intensity of farmyardy washed rinders, while also accentuating their aromatic notes. Look out for semi-dry 40 Vermouth from Sussex wine maker Albourne Estate, made with 40 botanicals including spices, citrus peel and  herbs. Its complex, fragrant flavour works a treat with Baronet – a pudgy, Jersey-milk cheese from Wiltshire, which has a mellow funk of buttery and yeasty notes.

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Roquefort & Muscat de Beaumes de Venise

People have tried to copy Roquefort cheese all over the world, but the French original made with raw sheep’s milk and covered by a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) remains totally unique. Salty, sweet, spicy and fruity with a light, slightly grainy texture, it’s a cheese with a lot to say for itself. Sweet wines, such as Sauternes, are a natural ally. They contrast with the high salt content, but ‘vins doux naturel’ can work in a similar way. These naturally sweet wines are fortified with grape spirit and include names such as Banyuls and Maury Doux. Muscat de Beaumes de Venise from the Rhone is particularly good with blues. The luscious honey notes of the wine soothe the nervy notes of Roquefort, while aromas of pear and quince help accentuate the fruitiness of the cheese.

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Sourdough crackers and crispbreads

Our hand-baked sourdough crackers and crispbreads are the perfect accompaniment to the ultimate British cheeseboard.

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Fortified wines & cheese