What should you drink with our cheese?
Cheese and wine are a famous pairing, and rightly so. Stray outside the well-known combination of port and stilton, however, and things can seem rather mysterious.
I have no qualifications beside experience to make recommendations. But we do eat a lot of our cheese, and do enjoy drinks. So here follows my tuppence worth on what I think works well. Feel free to let us know what you think of these pairings or any others that you have enjoyed – we are always looking for an excuse to try something new!
The basic principle I follow is that what I drink with a cheese should complement and balance its qualities. Our cheeses, Sinodun Hill and Brightwell Ash, are particularly creamy (a result of the breed of goat we keep, Anglo Nubians), which means that they are balanced well by a fresh tasting drink rather than anything too rich. As they have a citrusy acidity, too, some sweetness to accompany it can provide a welcome ‘sweet and sour’ experience. The flavour of our cheese tends to be complex but not super intense, so you want drinks that won’t overwhelm the more delicate flavour notes in the cheese.
I'll start with the most obvious option: wine. Fraser and I often drink red wine at home, and I find Zinfandel, Primitivo, Cabernet Franc or Beaujolais to be good bedfellows for our cheese. They are fruity and full of flavour without the risk of overwhelming things that might come something more in-your-face like, let's say, a Malbec. If you are drinking white wine, then a fresh, herbaceous wine such as Picpoul de Pinet or Vinho Verde works well.
A bit further off piste, white port was recommended to us as a good pairing with Sinodun Hill by a well-known cheese expert. Of course, we felt obliged to try it and can confirm that they do indeed taste very nice together. The sweetness from the port and the citrusy zing of the cheese were a real feast for the senses. Sake - the Japanese rice wine - was also recommended to us as a good pairing with Sinodun by Kanako at Culture and Culture, and she kindly gave us a bottle, so we could see for ourselves. The fresh heat of the sake and the creaminess of the cheese made for an usual but very moreish combination.
Of course, there are many other drinks apart from wine that you can have with cheese. The new generation of fresh, hoppy IPAs go down a treat with our cheeses, particularly Brightwell Ash – the ubiquitous Brewdog Punk IPA or Elvis Juice (with its grapefruit notes) are good places to start. Strong local brewing competition is also worth checking out: we’ve really enjoyed Wipeout from Little Ox Brewery and Oxford Pale Ale from Chadlington Brewery.
I often find cider a bit too sweet and cloying, but why not try a perry with our cheese? The pear flavour is softer, more complex and crisp: a fresher and more balanced match for our cheese. While we’re on the subject of orchard fruits, calvados and tonic makes a refreshing drink, bringing apply notes in a more subtle form than cider. As a teenager, my grandad rather put me off calvados by describing it as ‘a hot fire coursing through your body’, but my older brother recently re-introduced me to it and, with tonic, I can confirm it is actually a lot less fearsome than that, and good with our cheese.
Goats cheese and honey is a classic and mouth-watering combination but alas I have never managed to try our cheese alongside mead (honey wine), though my younger brother has often talked about trying to make it (Dave, if you’re reading this, I still await with interest). If anyone reading this wants to try this pairing and report back in the meantime, I would love to hear the outcome.
Soft drinks are an under-represented part of the market and as someone who has been pregnant twice in recent years, I know the woeful lack of any choice apart from soft drinks that are so sugary they drown out any other flavours and leave you with furry teeth only too well.
For those of you keen to scoff cheese without alcohol though, I have a few suggestions. Local Oxford company Tiddly Pommes make single variety apple juices and have an amazingly crisp, sharp, flavour packed one made from local heritage coxes, which is a superb friend for our cheese. We were recently alerted to the potential of our cheese to pair with kombucha - fermented tea - by the Real Kombucha Company, who kindly sent us a few samples. Their Royal Flush blend, brewed from darjeeling tea, have notes of rhubarb and again brings a fresh astringency which really works, while Dry Dragon was more citrusy and also a really nice pairing. A homemade lemonade should also be a good bet.
Ultimately of course it all comes down to what you enjoy and what your taste buds respond to. Experimentation is the fun part!