Learn how different cheeses, pickles and chutneys can affect the taste of wine, enabling you to pick the best combination! Post sponsored by Branston.
Cheese and wine is an obvious combination; but have you ever really thought about exactly what wine to pair with which cheese and what to serve as an accompaniment to really get the best flavour out of the combination? I certainly hadn't until I was invited along by Branston to an evening of learning about wine, cheese and pickle pairing and had my eyes opened to a whole new world of flavour enhancement.
We started off the evening by tasting a piece of paper (yes really), it was a tasting strip called PROP that apparently tastes unbearably bitter to some people, slightly bitter to others, and others can't taste it at all - about a third of the population each. I couldn't taste it, which apparently means that I have fewer taste buds; those people who find it unbearably bitter are what is known as supertasters and experience the sense of taste with greater intensity.
Next up, we tried a sip of white wine, we then sucked on a slice of lemon and then tried the same wine again; it tasted so much sweeter after the lemon, like a totally different wine! This was due to the acid in the lemon and demonstrated how pairing wine with acidic foods (such as pickles and chutneys with your cheese) can really help to make the wine taste better.
Then we tried the wine again after eating a grape, this time it tasted far more dry and bitter - unpleasantly so! This was apparently due to the tannins in the grape skin, which can have a drying effect. Tannins are also present in things like chocolate and walnuts, so while chocolate and wine may seem like it would be a great combination, it can actually make the wine taste not as good as it should (boo!). You are best off pairing chocolate with red port or dessert wine as the sweetness can stand up to the bitterness.
Then it was time to move on to the main event - trying out some delicious cheese, wine and pickle pairings. First up was Lancashire cheese with Branston Original pickle and a white wine - Vouvray Domaine des Aubuisieres 2016. Cheese is generally paired with red rather than white wine so it was interesting to see that white wine can work - as long as you pick a mild, creamy cheese. In this case the cheese and pickle made the wine taste sweeter, which I liked, though some members of the group found that it dulled the flavour of the wine a little too much.
Next up was Edam with Branston Tomato Chutney and Catena Malbec 2015. The Malbec was surprising as it tasted very smoky - due to the oak casks it is brewed in; and it tasted even smokier after the cheese and chutney. It was an unexpected flavour but I liked it a lot.
Next was mature cheddar with Branston's Small Chunk Pickle and Ravenswood Lodi Zinfandel 2014. The zinfandel had a strong, spicy, almost Christmassy flavour and the cheddar and acidity in the pickle helped to take the edge off a little. I could have had a lot of this combination!
Then it was time to move onto dessert - Brie with Branston Smooth Squeezy Pickle and a dessert wine - Royal Tokaji Late Harvest 2015. It is no secret that I have a sweet tooth and I really loved this combination. It was sweet, salty and creamy, and for me at least, utterly addictive. The brie and pickle made the sweet dessert wine slightly less sweet, which in turn made it even more drinkable.
Lastly we tried stilton with Branston Caramelised Onion Chutney and Croft Reserve Tawny Port. I'm not a fan of stilton, but I do love both caramelised onion chutney and port, and pairing it with both of those did almost make me like it. I t is a very rich combination and would be perfect for serving instead of dessert.
I really enjoyed all of the combinations but particularly the edam with Branston Tomato Chutney and malbec; the tomato chutney was really delicious and worked well with the mild cheese and smoky wine. My absolute favourite had to be the brie with Branston smooth chutney and dessert wine however; for me the sweet, salty creamy combo was addictive. It wasn't for everyone however, a couple of other members of the group didn't like it at all which just goes to show how people react to flavours differently.
To finish off the tastings, we each had a cheese and pickle mince pie; I was initially dubious as I thought that it was going to be a regular mince pie with added pickle.... Fortunately there was no mincemeat in sight and what it actually was was a cheese, potato and pickle pie; and very tasty it was too! The recipe was created by one of my baking heros – Lily Vanilli, and you can try the recipe for yourself here.
It was a really fun, informative evening and I will definitely put more thought into what wine to serve with what cheese this Christmas. I found that the addition of the pickles and chutneys really did help to enhance the favour of the wine so I will also be stocking up on Branston! I hope that this post helps you to choose your cheese, wine and pickle pairings too!
All of the wines mentioned in this post are available to buy at Majestic Wine
This post is sponsored by Branston. Thank you for supporting the brands that allow me to continue doing what I love – playing with food and making a mess of my kitchen.