© 2009-2011 Quality Eating and Drinking London Ltd


© 2009-2011 Quality Eating and Drinking London Ltd

Articles in Cheese and other dairy category

Reflected glory, or bedazzlement?

How often do we hear of something defined in "aiming-off" orienteering terms? You know the score — "the poor man's Arsenal" (though after today's showing, surely Arsenal are the poor man's Arsenal?), or "East Kilbride's answer to David Attenborough". Though I still prefer the honesty of "I am to golf what Mozart was to fluid dynamics".

Yesterday, I saw (and tasted) an interesting looking little cheese called l'Édel de Cléron. Dainty, semi-soft, rinded, spruce-girdled, from Franche-Comté. Tuck in, and it's rich with mountain milk, slightly tangy (but not aggressively so), and quite addictive. But when I went to the Web to find out more, I found out less. Just about every reference called it faux vacherin. I'm sorry, vacherin is vacherin, and this is its own master. The few sites which did not call it vacherin tried to call it a mountain brie. Great: is that like an Essex haggis?

Yes, we all relativise, whether it's "a hint of juhfark in this wine", or "that gjetost is like Stenhousemuir toffee", or the more (ahem) mainstream "cat's pee on a gooseberry bush". Is it useful, or is it lazy?

Answers, please, via the comment box below.

Diverse delights

Maltby Street between the showers today was full of pleasant surprises (but then, we are by now unsurprised by the existence of pleasant surprises at Maltby Street, if that isn't a sort of Möbius argument). Whether it was the delicious meats on offer at Jacob's ladder, or the return of the fenugreek-studded sheep's cheese from Terschelling at Boerenkaas, every arch brought something new. At Aubert and Mascoli, four very different wines, including a left-field vitovska (white) from right up against the Slovenian border, just inside Italy. At the Ham and Cheese Company, meltingly glorious Jésus du Pays Basque salami, and at the Kernel, a drought-rasping pale ale made with Japanese Sorachi hops. And much more. As ever, vaut le détour.

Winning weekend wine and cheese combinations

Where to start? Cheese and wine is a clichéd combination that nosedives just as often as it soars. For that reason, why bother with another look?

Because Londoners now have a homogenised huddle of wine and cheese artisans at Maltby Street (buses 42, 47, 78, 188, 381 and C10; about equidistant from London Bridge and Bermondsey tube stations, but less frenetic from the latter — search the map using SE1 3PA).

Certainly cheese lovers are spoilt for choice in the Maltby maelstrom (as you'll see from another article this weekend), with Neal's Yard Dairy, Mons, the Ham and Cheese Company, Käse Swiss, the Borough Cheese Company, and Boerenkaas (foster-presented by Käse Swiss within metres of each other. Lovers of truly expressive natural wines are admirably catered for by Gergovie and by Aubert and Mascoli.

With such great products in such close proximity, it seems only sensible to ensure that they should not be allowed to be 'arch' enemies (apologies) at Maltby Street, but unrivalled allies.

Which brings me on to Aubert and Mascoli’s Rosé des Sables (Cabernet, Joel Courtault, Thésée). I have to confess that I was beginning to start to rue my rashness at parting with £17 for this little number. It’s a naturally fizzy pink (its crown cap is jammed on prematurely when the wine is near the end of its fermentation) made from the action of wild yeasts, which contrives to be off-dry and tart simultaneously; in flavour terms, rather as if a heavy hand has slung in an over-generous measure of redcurrants with the rest of the summer pudding fruit. Beginning to regret it: pleasant enough, but …

At the time of purchase, both Silvija and I thought that the wine might have a role to play in washing down a cheese or two, so … segue to a disk of Pérail, a mould-ripened ewes’ milk soft cheese from Aveyron ... via Mons. Love this cheese: Pérail le nonpareil. Gently pungent, beautifully creamy, sheepy enough but not aggressively sheepish, as it were.

Now put the two together. A touch of sweetness in a wine so often marries with the mineral/salt elements in cheese; acidity cuts any palate-coating unctuousness; a distinct tartness refreshes and balances. Then, if on the finish, the flavours meld to create something that is both but neither — seventh heaven. And, yes, it really was that good. Non, je ne régrette rien …

Next, a red wine and cheese. I’ve made the jibe before, but I’ll make it here again: a lot of people see the cheese course in a meal as a way of finishing off their red wine; and, more often than not, it does precisely that, creating a killer combination, with mutually assured destruction. So, ladies and gentlemen …

In the red corner, please welcome Aubert and Mascoli’s Vin de Campagne 2009, (André Bourguet, Hérault: £10/75cl). Not a heavyweight this, but a bright, delightful wine made from an unusual blend of syrah, cabernet franc and merlot. Bristling with hedgerow fruits (elder, bramble and perhaps the odd feral raspberry), it’s edged with a distinct savour of the garrigue (amongst other wild herbs, sarriette and serpolet are present) and a further dimension of earthy minerality. Bloody good indeed, and easily worth its tenner.

Serve it alongside some sweet lamb and it would do sterling service; pitch it against some partridge and it would be perfection. Guinea fowl, quail, chicken: yes, yes, yes. But this is about cheese and wine (there's always room for another bottle of this to pair up with those meat dishes on another occasion).

In the blue corner (relax, it’s not a blue cheese): from Mons again, the incomparable Cosne de Port Aubry (£42.60 per kilo – good grief, but a little is eminently satisfying) from a farm in the Loire region. A pyramidal chalky, lemony goats’ cheese, it demands what? Sauvignon blanc, I hear you cry. No doubt about it — Aubert and Mascoli’s full, rounded, vegetal Menetou Salon (£17, I think; it’s not online) would be fabulous, ideal. No prizes, however, for guessing the combination I’m advocating.

Far from slugging it out, the Vin de Campagne makes a fantastic marriage, allowing both wine and cheese to voice their layers of flavours eloquently whilst synthesising a third flavour — a nettly, herby mélange underpinned by the sweet fruitiness of the merlot. Startling and marvellous.

So there you have it: two totally off-piste cheese and wine combinations, achievable in a mere moment of well-located shopping. I commend them to you.

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