Please remember to approach the world of wine responsibly
It was Christmas and among the many great things that happened, despite you know what, was the range of interesting wine gifts I received, be they books, or a bottle of something special that I either got through quicker than I planned or that as ended up being laid down for some distant, but as yet unnamed occasion.
The gift that got me a little excited this year was given to me by my wife and consisted of five wines and five cheeses that websites informed her should go well together. Where's the excitement in that? I hear you shout at the screen, and I'll tell you. Not only was it a present from somebody lovely, it was also a gift that showed though and support for somebody who often spends too long pontificating about wine and locked away sampling this vintage or that variety in an effort to bring you my thoughts.
The five brands are not the first that would have come to my mind if I'd have done the choosing and perhaps I might have spent more than I should have done, but I think it's good to have more decision and snobbery put in their place and I I write this, and look at the quarter bottles, I'm quite looking more than forward to indulging in this.
I wasn't going to write about it at first because I thought an article about a winewriter working his way through a Christmas present might not make the most syntilating of reads, but then I realised than that lots of people are starting their journey along the wine path and I wanted to write this for them, and so I think it's time to introduce the runner and riders.
The wines are
Delle Venezie - Pinot Grigio 2019
Luis Felipe Edwards - Bin 17 Sauvignon Blanc 202
Beefsteak Club - Malbec 2019
J P Chenet - Cab/Syrah 2019
Lanson black Label Brut - Champagne
All can be obtained from your local supermarket in a range of sizes.
The cheese are
Tesco Mozzarella Pearls
Waitrose French Goat's Cheese
Waitrose Beemster Dutch Gouda
Waitrose Wookey Hole Cheddar
Waitrose Rouzaire Brie de Meaux
For those eager to try this. I've given both the wine and cheese time to breathe. I'll try the wine before the food and then both together. First up is the Pinot Grigio and the Mozzarella (careful getting those little pearls out or you'll end up with a lap full of cheese juice)
The wine is light with a tinge of green fruit in the mix. It's an inoffensive DOC wine that I would serve on a summer's day. The taste brings up a lot of fruit but I'm not getting more than a growth in green fruit and an edge of citrus. Time to add the cheese. The balls are chewy and seem to be fighting against being overwhelmed by the wine. It's time to up the dosage to two balls. Here I go: I imagine that they pairing might work better if the Mozzarella is cooked because they don't seem to truly compliment each other and it's more as though they are tolerating each other in my mouth.
I'm intrigued by the idea of a Chilean Sauvignon meeting up with a French goat's cheese as I prepare the both of them. It says that the cheese is spreadable so I'm trying with an without a cracker because it might bring something else to thing particular party.
The wine has New Zealand in its background as I smell those tight tropical fruits that promise to make my face screw up. Jancis calls it a cat's pee smell and I'm not going to argue. Wait a minute and give the wine a chance and in the background, coming to the rescue is a floral, hedgerow nose that is a lot calmer than I first imagined. I taste and I actually find this to be quite restrained as though it's a wine trying to break out from its perceived image. There's bags of crowd-pleasing party fruit of the tropical, citrus variety (and I did slightly wince) but behind it I'm veering towards a slight pear taste.
With the goat's cheese. At first I think it overwhelms the cheese by itself, but if you moderate the amount and put a lot more cheese then they go together nicely with the cheese taste growing smoothly as it takes away the wincing fruit. Let's try a crack and cheese with the wine.
I'll be honest this didn't do as much as I'd hoped. It is pleasant and the two go well together (I know they'll be a few of you who sya that I should have tried this cheese with the Champagne but it's a gift) but I did prefer it without the cracker in the mix.
A quick palate cleanser and I'm heading to Argentina for a spot of Malbec and a taste of Gouda.
I see this Beefsteak range all over my local supermarket and I'm always put off because of the name, which has a bit of a 'treat the public as though they won't know if you put the name of the producer on' vibe. Let people choose and hope they think your wine is the best.
This Malbec has quite a luring nose to it and I can smell the syrupy fruit resting in the glass as I'm preparing the cheese. I lift the glass and get blackfruit and an edge of red fruit that wants to be noticed. A hint of liqourice begs for attention and I'm giving it. Before I taste this is so youthful that it's like a teenager with raging hormones waiting to settle down.
I taste and the dark fruit come in and then go out like a tide, but leaving syrup and hints at a dark fruit that might carry this wine forward. It's wine for those will tell you they enjoy Malbec but have rarely ventured beyond the supermarket shelves.
The cheese is a wonderfully rich paste that is so lovely in the mouth that my tongue is sending out a marriage proposal. It's the best Gouda I've had in a while and I worry how the wine will react with it.
The two are playing games in my mouth and the paste holds it own against the wine. I would say that the cheese is so good that it would take a terrible wine to ruin it and this Beefsteak adds a hint of spice that I find rather pleasant.
I seem to have seen the wines of JP Chenet on the shelves for quite a while and I've never been sure about them. There's little information on the bottle to lead me anywhere. I always think they're one of those mass-produced brands that are trying to give off a good vibe, but perhaps this is my snobbery at work.
It's interesting to go for a Cab/Syrah blend as I think that a straight Cab might have been enough for the Cheddar.
On the nose it massively fruity and youthful and I get where this is aimed at; those people who like the idea of Cab but often find them rather bold and leathery for their tastebuds. Nothing wrong with that and each to their own.
It's like Ribena and I imagine many a faux pas has been caused by somebody necking back this wine because they believe it's not got much punch. Well, at 13% I'd say you need to watch yourself. There's a creamy edge but with this wine it's superficial and not a wine built for length.
The taste is watery with an edge of dark fruit at first. It's pleasant but the depth and finish don't hold the sort of promise I like in both a Cab and a Syrah. Penfolds actually do one that is worth spending ready month on. I want this to perform but it seems content to laze about hinting at potential.
I decide to go off piste and pair it firstly with that wonderful Gouda and it's pleasing to see that the cheese has actually added a little bit of depth to the wine, taking away whatever edge there is and replacing it with a more roundeed mouthfeel.
Now it's on to the Cheddar, and I worry if the wine will be a match. On it's own, the Wookey Hole is cheese that has a minerality and interest that makes you want a large plate of the stuff. It's earthy, it's fun, it's delicious.
I add the wine and there is imbalance but I'm not being too critical because a strong cheese needs a wine that can flex its muscles.
I'm finishing with the Lanson. I know it would have been a good starter, and usually at tasting I always try a glass before heading into the other varieties, but I'm eager to see how this will taste with the goat's cheese as well as the brie.
Lanson was my first Champagne of choice when I started paying attention to the name on the bottle as well as the wine in the glass, and I still remember an exciting bottle of Rose Champagne I had for an anniversary quite a few years ago now. I can't recall have had a glass in a decade or more and I'm eager to revisit my memories.
The wine in a quarter bottle has none of the ceremony of opening a full bottle when anticipation and mastery of the cork are just a couple of moments I enjoy about this most glorious of regions. Perhaps it's my snobbery but I cannot get used to screwtop Champagne with a plastic stopper.
I love Brie and find it the most social of cheeses because you just can't eat a beautifully runny one on a first date because it's so wonderfully messy and this one doesn't let me down. In fact, it's so runny that Waitrose have wrapped it in two lots of cellophane and after the pleasure of breaking through the first layer, I'm frustrated as I fight to get at the cheese.
The Lanson smells creamy, light and bready and it's reassuring to find some of my favourite in the mix here. The fizz has left quicker than a politicians honesty and I'm sad at this. Before I taste I'm getting almonds and marzipan.
The wine is a little bit limp and seems to be praying for the addition of something. There's little depth to it as a classic Champagne and I'm sad because I'm wondering where that beauty and oppulence of my first Lanson tastings has gone. Once again, this is not a wine to lay down and keep because by my second sip it's more syrup thatn anything else. Let's be honest and say that bottles this size are never kept and usually consumed by the single glass in a single swip.
Time for the goats cheese addition. For a moment the wine had recovered a little bit of its vim and vigour and it seemed like a good pairing, but the amount of cheese it would take to sustain this would put a dint in your bank balance and a couple of pounds to your waistline! Still got the Brie though.
The sticky Brie shows little response at first and I'm finding this match to be a no-match.
I try again and I've got to say that the Champagne has actually harmed the taste of the Brie in the backend and the creamy flavour now has a harshness that
I'm not eager to revisit.
Some were good, some were interesting and one was not for me and made me wonder who had actually thought that these two would go together.