and Wine Challenge | July 2005
Julia asks: Montgomery’s Cheddar and ……?
The British Empire no longer paints the world
map pink, but still cheddar colonizes our palates
and plates. Over 90% of cheese in Britain is
sold as cheddar, as is over a third of cheese
in North America, even after centuries of independence.
Products of insipid texture, lurid hue and abominable
fruit and vegetable flavours share this venerable
name due to a tragic failure to protect appellation.
Only six authentic farmhouse cheddar makers remain
in England. James Montgomery is possibly supreme
among them. For better and worse, cheddar reigns
over Anglo-Saxon cheeses, but Montgomery’s
is king of them all.
Why am I such a loyal subject? To start, the
cheese’s production inspires awe and respect.
Fewer than fifteen cylinders from the raw milk
of a single herd are handmade each day, wrapped
in cloth and set to age on a plank of wood. The
transpiring rind and organic surrounding allow
aromas of the farm to permeate the paste. One
sniff of a freshly cut face and you are in bucolic
bliss. Breathe in the mild sour tang of warm
hide and the sweetness of straw. The paste crumbles
and cracks, but is still resilient and glistening
with youth; a bite skids across your teeth and
dissolves quickly. Tongue-prickling acidity dominates,
but from the back of your mouth, long after you
have swallowed, comes a round bitter bass note
straight from the barn.
I want to enjoy this cheese after a Sunday evening
meal of roast beef and root vegetables. Ideally,
I’ll share a wedge, off in the corner,
with a fellow diner of a certain age. My companion
will be from a generation that appreciates tradition,
recognizing the beauty of expression within constraint,
with a knack for conversation to match the depth
and breadth of this cheese. What wine can possibly
meet our expectations?
|| Non-vintage Port
||Honey Brown Ale
||South Australian Chardonnay
|Plain Old Crazy:
or Navarre (Grenache based, softened tannins
and low acid but yummy
dried fruit notes.) I thought of this because
I love grilled cheese sandwiches with aged
cheddar on raisin bread. Can you see the
Christy Vaughn replies...
Originally from Ontario, Christy Vaughan now
lives in Brooklyn, New York and currently splits
her time between making music and drinking
and writing about wine. Christy is in the process
of completing the Diploma in Wines and Spirits
from the WSET in the U.K.
In keeping with tradition,
and British tradition at that, what could
be more ideal with this
special wedge of Cheddar than a glass of well-aged
claret? Better known today in North America
as Bordeaux, the British have a more than three
hundred year old history with these red blends
from the southwest of France. In fact, their
obsession with these fine wines have outlasted
many a Franco-Anglo war and trade ban. According
to appellation law, up to six specified varieties
can be included in the mix, but three grapes
tend to dominate these red wines – Cabernet
Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.
In their youth, fine Bordeaux wines are legendary
for their rough tannins and gritty mouthfeel.
As the wine ages, however, the tannins mellow
and soften, and the raw, exuberant fruit of
youth transforms on the palate into a delicate
mélange of dried plums, blackcurrants
and smoky forest floor. The subtlety of the
aged bouquet of the Bordeaux, along with the
underlying strength of a sturdy backbone of
structure will perfectly match the tangy acidity
and bright youthfulness of the Cheddar. Neither
component of this pairing will be overpowered;
instead, the differences of each element will
complement the other. Your distinguished companion
will undoubtedly be an enthusiast of the extraordinarily
complex notes that aged Bordeaux brings to
the table and you will have much to discuss