The Perfect Pairing
A cheese board is crucial at Christmas, however, create a premium choice, and drive sales, by pairing it with the appropriate drink. Fortified wines are perfect partners for most types of matured cheese as stronger tasting cheese won’t be dominated by the powerful flavours of the wine. Follow our guide for perfect pairings…
Fino – The lightest and driest of sherries it is best served chilled as an aperitif. Traditionally served with wafer thin slices of Manchego (Spanish hard sheep’s milk cheese) it also works well with vintage cheddars (three-year-old Cornish Cheddar or Vintage Cathedral City). Slice using a cheese plane for small wafers.
Manzanilla – Is a dry Fino style sherry produced near the sea estuary of the Guadalquivir river which gives the sherry a tang of salt. Pair with England’s finest hard sheep’s milk cheese, Berkswell.
Amontillado – A naturally dry sherry with an amber colour, it can be sold lightly or medium sweetened. Perfect with brie and soft gooey goat’s cheese or a strong smoke flavour works well too, so offer a smoked cheese choice as well.
Oloroso – A sweet, rich, darker sherry with a nutty aroma. It is the most alcoholic of sherries, and works beautifully with blue stilton or other British blue cheeses such as Shropshire Blue, Cropwell Bishop’s Beauvale or Long Clawson’s Creamy Blue.
Palo Cortado – Dark coloured and dry however, not as heavy as Oloroso, it should be served chilled. Pair with Belton Farm’s Traditional Red Leicester or Double Gloucester – both matured for a bit longer than standard varieties for extra flavour and a firmer texture.
Bottle Aged Ports
Ruby, Ruby Reserve and Pink – They only have two to three years in wood before bottling so are perfect with traditional cheddar – Quickes, Keens, Gould when they are at around 12 months of age. Also good with traditional Tasty Lancashire aged for three to four months – a softer texture than traditional cheddar and a more gentle but distinct flavour.
Vintage Port – Powerful, intense sweet – often 10 to 20 years old – is perfect for a mature, creamy blue stilton – Cropwell Bishop or Colston Bassett are generally matured that little bit longer for a stronger but still mellow flavour. Serve with nuts or figs for an added dimension.
Barrel Aged Ports
Tawny and Colheita – Both aged for between eight and 15 years in barrels so that they get that tawny colour and mellow, rich, fine taste. Three-year-old Cornish cheddar where the slight sweetness and complexity of the cheese matches the sweeter nutty tones of the port. Serve with nuts or figs for an added dimension.
Drive your sales of sherries and port:
• Brief and educate staff so they suggest a post-meal sherry or port or when the cheese board is ordered they can suggest the appropriate drink pairing.
• Sherry isn’t just to drink with cheese! Educate your staff so they can suggest the type of sherry to complement their dish. For example, Palo Cortado goes well with pâté, an Amontillado suits roast beef, and Oloroso works well with mince pies.
• Have a lunchtime offer on port and sherry – this will help push sales on Christmas lunch parties.
• Create a special port and sherry menu, describing the flavours and tastes, and what dish they are best suited to.
• Ask your supplier for relevant POS material which you can display accordingly so it catches the eye of customers and notifies them of your sherry and port offerings upon their entrance to the bar.
And don’t forget about the cheese…
• Create a cheese menu and include information on: provenance and maker, pasteurised and unpasteurised, perfect drink pairings
• Offer a selection of breads, biscuits or fruit
• Cut a wedge from cheeses such as brie or camembert to encourage ripening
• Include top quality salted and unsalted butter on the board
• Offer a range of chutneys to make the customer’s experience complete
“There’s a Port or Sherry for every customer, be they traditionalists or those looking for a fun, less formal drink. Try Port over ice to see what I mean and then let your imagination go from there!” Goncalo Sousa Machado, MD, Offley Port UK