Cheddar is possibly the UK’s most favourite cheese. Issuing from the hearts and gorges of the West Country, the cheese, with its varying strengths of its distinctive flavour, has captured the minds and tastebuds of cheeselovers not just in Britain but in many other countries too.
In France it is often suggested on the side of crumpet packets as a reasonable accompaniment, and while I’m sure that the Cheddar-crumpet marriage would be a successful one, it’s not something I’m ever sure I’ve seen a British person do. Cheddar, when not eaten on its own, has its sharp and tangy flavour exploited in conjunction with crackers, as part of a Ploughman’s, or in sandwiches.
The hard yellow cheese is not only popular, accounting for 51% of the UK’s annual cheese market, but also historic, dating back to the 12th century. Its flavour can be so strong that you’d think that what was needed would be a red wine to punch it in the guts. However, it’s not always true: we have recently found that a sweet Bordeaux wine, Sauternes, makes an equally agreeable bedfellow. This not being my area of expertise though, it’s over to our hitherto silent Keeper, a.k.a. him indoors, a.k.a. the resident wine expert (being French, it’s more or less expected of him).
There seems to be no consensus on cheddar and wine matching. I have found red (Australian shiraz), white (Sancerre) and sweet/fortified (Port) recommended by wine experts and the general public with cheddar.
We established that cheddar is indeed quite versatile, although some wines seem to perform better. Below is an attempt, in ascending order, to rank some of the wines we paired with cheddar.
We start with a Roussillon wine from star producer Gérard Gauby. It is a dry white wine that provides an acceptable match with cheddar. I would say this tends to bring out herbal flavours.
(€17 from the Caves de Marly, http://www.domainegauby.fr/)
Next is this superb Pommard, whose strength is a good match for a mature cheddar.
The runner up is this Australian Cabernet Shiraz (such a combination of Bordeaux and Rhône grape varieties would not be allowed under any AOC in France). This successful combination brings out red fruit flavours.
(9 euros from Lavinia, http://www.yering.com/)
However, the clear winner is this Sauternes: expect nice candied fruit flavours when matching it with some nice Cheddar.