March is a month full of special days from the start of spring and Mothering Sunday to celebration of not one but two of Great Britain's Patron Saints. In honour of St. David and St. Patrick, our March Cheesemonger's Special Selection showcases a trio of fantastic cheeses from Wales and Ireland. No Welsh cheese board would be complete without Caerphilly. Alongside this crumbly classic, our selection includes lesser-known Celtic Promise and Ireland's original blue cheese, Cashel Blue. In this blog we are delighted to share ideal drinks matches from Katie Goodchild dipWSET, Suffolk-based wine expert and cheese lover.
Caws Teifi Traditional Welsh Caerphilly
From the Teifi Valley in west Wales, this Traditional Welsh Caerphilly is moist and crumbly with a delicate flavour and fresh lemony notes. Made by Caws Teifi it is a cheese steeped in Welsh heritage, taking its name from the town where the cheese originated, eight miles north of Cardiff. Production of Caerphilly cheese dates back to the early 19th Century when it was a popular food for local miners. Since 2018 Traditional Welsh Caerphilly (or Caerffili in Welsh) has enjoyed Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status similar to Champagne and Melton Mowbray pork pies. It must be made from milk produced by Welsh farms from cows fed a predominantly forage based diet. Traditional Welsh Caerphilly is delicious on a cheese board accompanied by the fresh acidity of a crisp apple or handful of grapes and it makes a truly authentic Welsh supper when baked with leeks.
Katie Goodchild, enjoyed her first taste of Caws Teifi Caerphilly baked in a leek gratin and matched it with Flint Vineyard's Bacchus 2019. This wine displays notes of fresh lime peel and a lavender-like perfume, underpinned by elderflower and a peppery spice. The mid-palate has a textural mouth-feel, buffering England’s trademark acidity. Situated on the Norfolk / Suffolk border not far from Bungay, Flint Vineyard is quickly becoming one of England’s top wine producers. Acclaim comes from wine critic Oz Clarke and the wine merchants Berry Bros & Rudd, who chose Flint Vineyard as their first English wine listing. Buttery flavours in Caws Teifi Caerphilly are also a great match for cool climate Chardonnay - English white Burgundy or New Zealand’s Gisborne.
Celtic Promise is a semi-soft washed rind cheese also made by Caws Teifi. It is one of only two cheeses to win twice the title of 'Supreme Champion' at the British Cheese Awards (1998 and 2005). Made from locally sourced raw cow's milk, this dumpling-shaped cheese has the slightly sticky, orangey-pink rind typical of a washed rind cheese. This spicy rind gives Celtic Promise a pungent, fruity aroma contrasting with its milder, buttery paste that is vibrant yellow and supple in texture. Celtic Promise is made to a Caerphilly-style recipe on the Caws Teifi farm in Wales. It is then moved to East Sussex for maturation where it is smear-ripened and washed in cider twice weekly for eight weeks. Celtic Promise tastes great with an accompaniment of sweet apple chutney. It also melts beautifully (similar to Raclette and Ogleshield) making it the perfect ingredient for an indulgent Welsh rarebit or on top of a jacket potato.
According to Katie, this cheese would work well with a full-bodied Chardonnay but she highly recommends the slightly more unusual choice of Calvados, apple brandy from Normandy. A tang on the finish of Celtic Promise could overpower a white wine but certainly not Calvados, the apple notes of which are a great match for this cheese. Père Magloire Calvados Pays d'Auge VSOP is one of the top producers of Calvados and in the 1990s was owned by the iconic Champagne house Veuve Clicquot. Made from the finest apples, this VSOP has been aged for 4 years in oak casks before bottling, resulting in a dark golden colour, apple blossom aromas and a fresh yet soft palate.
Cashel Blue from County Tipperary is the Irish star of our Slate wall of cheese. It takes its name from the region's historic landmark, the 'Rock of Cashel'. According to local folklore, it was at this medieval castle that St. Patrick began conversion of the pagan Irish to Christianity, using a shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity. Created by Jane Grubb in the early 1980s, Cashel Blue was the first blue cheese produced in Ireland. With a chalky white paste that is well marbled with blue veins, Cashel Blue is characterful but not strong. It is matured for three to six months. With age its colour darkens to buttery-yellow and it becomes creamier in taste. Its flavours become more balanced as the saltiness, blueness and gentle milky elements integrate together. The natural rind of Cashel Blue is edible and saltier than the centre of the cheese.
Katie considers Cashel Blue too delicate to be matched with a fortified wine such as Port and not quite salty enough to warrant a dessert wine. She suggests opting for aromatic wines like Gewürztraminer, Riesling or Pinot Gris. Dry or off-dry styles will both work well, depending on your preference. She enjoyed Cashel Blue with Stopham Estate Pinot Gris 2018, a wine that has been winning awards since its first release. Notes of stone fruits, pear and ginger with a sweetness that is balanced by refreshing acidity. Located in the South Downs National Park, Stopham Estate does much to promote a sustainable environment. A natural eco-system is maintained using manure produced by the estate’s cattle, recycling all organic waste back into the soil on the estate and adopting techniques that are beneficial to maximising biodiversity.