Christmas is a time for lengthy relaxing meals with family and friends and there’s no better way of making the most of all this festiveness than with a glass of port and a slice of cheese. Plus, there’s no excuse not to, as the shops are currently fully stocked in both these departments. Port offers an array of flavours from sweet, fruity and ripe berries to figs, raisins and toasted almonds. Cheese has a savoury and sometimes salty tang that contrasts beautifully with the port’s sweetness. And you don’t even have to wait until after dinner – this is the time of year that snacking is a given throughout the day.
We have picked five ports from leading port lodge Taylor’s - First Estate, Late Bottled Vintage, 10 Year Old Tawny, Taylor’s 325th Anniversary Limited Edition and a 2002 Vintage - and perfectly matched them with a range of widely available cheeses. We found that most ports are very versatile and go well with many cheeses, but, of course, there are some really special pairings that we can’t wait to try again. Remember, though, pairing port and cheese is a matter of personal taste and there are no wrong answers: the idea is to have fun and experiment.
Taylor’s First Estate Reserve Port with Camembert de Normandie or Ticklemore goats cheese
Taylor’s First Estate Reserve is a full-bodied, youthful and fruity port with a creamy restrained finish that marries superbly with the full flavour and rich creaminess of cheeses such as Camembert de Normandie or a goats cheese with its citric, nutty notes.
Taylor’s Late Bottled Vintage Port 2011 with Valençay
Late Bottled Vintage makes an excellent match for goat’s milk cheeses such as a fresh Valençay or a Sainte-Maure. As the thick crumbly texture of the chèvre dissolves in contact with the wine, the ripe and opulent red berry fruitiness and delicate chocolate notes of the LBV merges with the rich, tangy flavours of the cheese. A great alternative match is a creamy cow’s milk cheese like Bix from Manor Farm in Nettlebed (Oxon), that matches opulence with opulence.
Taylor’s 10 Year Old Tawny Port with farmhouse Cheddar
Aged tawnies are characterised by an attractive amber colour, smooth silky palate and sublimely complex, nutty, spicy, Christmas flavours. These pair beautifully with the rich, nutty, fruity character of mature farmhouse Cheddar. Aged tawnies also work well with Gouda.
Taylor’s 325th Anniversary Limited Edition with Comté
We tried this limited edition tawny the other day, and it was a wonderful, velvety port with bags of dense, luscious flavour - think plums, berries and dried fruit, rapped around butterscotch and black pepper. We paired it with a versatile and fudgy Comté, whose nutty saltiness went fabulously with the rich sweetness of the port.
Taylor’s Quinta de Vargellas 2002 Vintage Port with Stilton
The pairing of vintage port and mature blue cheeses such as Stilton is one of the great classic food and wine combinations. Stilton goes brilliantly with vintage-style ports like LBV or the fruit-packed First Estate. The soft, buttery texture, mellow character and piquancy of the cheese, together with a slightly sweet aftertaste, matches perfectly with the powerfully majestic flavours of this 2002 Vintage – lots of plum and cherry jam flavours and hints of violets. Try it with Cashel Blue and Roquefort, too. And if there’s some high cocoa chocolate on the table, it will be pretty perfect with this, as well.
To get started on your Christmas port and cheese odyssey, here are a few Taylor’s Port suppliers, who also provide a good range of cheese too.
Taylor’s First Estate Reserve Port 20cl and Stilton wedge
Paxton & Whitfield
For a full range of cheeses in perfect condition