We have chosen to end the tumultuous year of 2020 with a reassuringly classic Cheesemonger's Special Selection of fine English cheeses, showcasing this country's cheese-making heritage. Our trio includes Waterloo, Montgomery's Cheddar and Cropwell Bishop Stilton. All three of these delicious cheeses are made in family-run dairies with recipes and skills passed down through generations.
This December trio steeped in cheese-making heritage is also a perfect link to our wine partners, Heritage Wines, who have provided so many fantastic pairing suggestions this year. Specialising in English and Welsh wines, Katie's monthly matches have broadened our appreciation of wines being made in this country and led us to discover some new favourites. Here we have her December pairings to enjoy over the festive season. These wines are all available individually from Heritage Wines plus there's a special wine and cheese gift selection including all three bottles and a voucher for your lucky recipient to receive the matching cheeses.
Waterloo is a soft brie-style cheese made by Village Maid Cheese in Berkshire from the full-fat unpasteurised milk of a local herd of Guernsey cows. With a mild earthy aroma that further develops with age, Waterloo has a gentle buttery flavour with sweet undertones of herbs and grass.
A creamy, subtle Chardonnay such as Chapel Down Chardonnay 2015 is a fabulous match to the creamy notes in this mild style of Brie. Choosing a wine that is creamy rather than oaky keeps the pairing refreshing, and it works just as well if you decide to bake the cheese.
Established in 2001, Chapel Down is one of England’s leading winemakers. Located in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Kent, Chapel Down is set amongst 22 acres of vineyard. Grapes come from within these vineyards but are also sourced from growers located between Essex and Hampshire.
The fruit for this wine comes from the Burgundian clone of Chardonnay, where the vines are grown on chalk on the North Downs of Kent. The grapes were whole-bunch pressed in October 2015 and fermented at a cool temperate to retain fresh fruit characters. The wine later went through full malolactic fermentation; a process where harsh malic acids are converted into soft lactic acids. Followed by extended maturation on lees prior to bottling in September 2016. The resulting wine is a classic example of cool climate Chardonnay with flavours of green apple, melon and pineapple. The palate is light, fresh and aromatic with a smooth texture and buttery notes.
Montgomery's Cheddar is one of the 'Big Three' Somerset cheddars alongside Keen's and Westcombe, all made using traditional methods, unpasteurised cow's milk and matured in muslin cloth. Under its natural rind, Monty's is golden in colour with a deep complex flavour of grassy, savoury notes. Its long lasting tang becomes a little sharper with age.
Bolney Wine Estate Lychgate Red 2017 works so well with Montgomery’s Cheddar because it has a little age, which has softened the wine’s tannins. The slight fattiness in Cheddar is also a wonderful match to the higher levels of acidity found in English red wines.
Bolney Wine Estate is located in the heart of rural Sussex, and is one of England’s oldest vineyards. The wine estate is a three- generation family business led by Sam Linter, Managing Director and Head Winemaker at Bolney, and Director of Wine GB. Their vines were first planted as early as 1972 on the Foxhole site, and have grown to become two sites (the latest, Pookchurch) totaling 104 acres with eight grape varieties. Bolney is guided by nature, the mild climate and the sandstone soil to craft their wines by hand carefully and mindfully. The estate specialises in producing still wines, specifically Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris.
Grapes for Bolney’s Lychgate Red were handpicked, destemmed and crushed prior to fermentation. The juice was then fermented on the skins for six days, enabling colour, flavour and tannin extraction. After pressing, the wine underwent malolactic fermentation in stainless steel tanks, followed by nine months ageing prior to bottling. A medium-bodied dry red wine with blackcurrant aromas. The palate shows ripe red berry and pepper flavours, with good tannins. We recommend decanting this wine to remove all traces of sediment before drinking.
Cropwell Bishop Stilton
Cropwell Bishop's Stilton is a rich and creamy Christmas classic with medium strength blueing. Crumbly yet firm, it offers a melt in the mouth feel and velvety soft texture. Its dry, brown wrinkled rind is entirely edible and offers pungent mushroomy notes.
For a traditional and festive pairing, we simply couldn’t choose anything other than White Castle Vineyard 1581 Fortified Wine 2015. The sweetness of the fruit is great match with Stilton and the soft tannins hold up well against the blue mould.
Located just outside the market town of Abergavenny is White Castle Vineyard. In 2008, Robb and Nicola Merchant purchased a five-acre field adjacent to their home and had a site analysis carried out. Deeming the gently sloping, south facing site suitable for grape growing, the Merchants planted 6000 vines over 10 years. Following their first harvest, in 2011, White Castle Vineyard gained Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status for the vineyard, allowing the use of Welsh Quality Wine on labels.
This is the second release of White Castle’s fortified wine, 1581. It is also the only fortified wine made in Great Britain. The first release from 2014 was the result of four years planning at White Castle Vineyard. In 2014, Robb and Nicola Merchant, owners of the Monmouth based winery, set aside one barrel of Regent, fortified it, bottled it in September and released it in December that year. The limited edition fortified wine was a sellout showstopper, and so they have continued to produce a barrel’s worth each year. Similar in style to a Late Bottled Vintage Port, 1581 has characteristics of bramble fruits, plum and cola.