This month saw the annual RAW Wine Fair, the country’s showcase event for natural wine. To mark the occasion, we decided to enlist the help of Shane Holland, leading food and drink writer, authority on cheese, and Executive Chairman of Slow Food in the UK, to pair Quicke's cheese with natural wines. Here's what he had to say...
WHAT IS NATURAL WINE?
Natural wines have the poetry of the terroir; they are unfiltered, preservative free, grown without pesticides and produced with as minimal intervention as possible. They are always organic, and frequently biodynamic too (whereas wine labelled just organic will have been made using organic grapes, but may have been subject to both chemical and physical manipulation during the wine making process).
The grapes are dry farmed, and this lack of irrigation means that they are often smaller and with intense flavours, likewise the fact that they are handpicked gives control over picking the very best grapes and removing bruised and damaged grapes from the crush.
"Natural wine has the poetry of the terroir"
HOW ARE THEY DIFFERENT?
The consequence of these techniques is that these wines are a world away from many of the wines that we are used to drinking: they often have a heavy sediment; upon opening they may have a slightly funkier aroma; their colours may be more intense, and the flavours will have some variation between bottlings. These variations are not to be feared – they are differences that we rejoice in with quality cheese: the deep aromas, the slight variation in flavours between the cheeses, the complexity of say Quicke's Extra Mature Cheddar against a paler waxy offering; the fact that the cloth of a whole Quicke's cheese will have protective natural moulds growing upon it - all adding to the rich flavour.
One thing I find that natural wines do call out for is fat – whilst some wines can be drunk without food at all, these more complex flavours almost always improve with even a small bite of something; be that a slice of marbled ham, a slither of something on pastry, or better still, a complex interesting cheese; of which none is finer than Quicke's.
Three pairings worth trying:
Rich, buttery, yet complex with multi-layered flavours; a cheese that demands to be drunk with Cabernet Sauvignon, and my choice here would be the delicious Cecchin 2015. The cassis is sparkling with hints of the blackcurrant leaf; softly tannic and a touch of cigar box on the nose. The wine is produced with zero mechanisation – they even replaced tractors for horses.
Wines generally don’t match easily to smoked flavours, but the rule to remember is that “smoke loves oak”. Avoid the heavily oaked wines which dominate the mass market new world offerings, and instead pair it with Chardonnay Sous Voile Chevassu from the Jura. This wine is aged in small oak barrels, which imparts good vanilla oak notes; but as 40% of the wine is lost to evaporation (the Angel's share) a thick flor develops, like producing fino sherry. Think apple pie and toasted almond flavours: and we all know just how good smoked almonds taste.
Quicke's new cheese; with a hint of goat and caramel flavours is an exciting match, and one which pairs perfectly with AOC Valais Pinot Noir Domaine De Beudon. This wine which is naturally fermented with yeast from the air, gives an intense yet elegant wine: an initial cherry sweetness finishes on a slight bitter note, perfectly balancing Lady Prue’s sweetness. Buy Lady Prue exclusively at Borough Market or in Quicke's Home Farm shop.
All wines selected are available from Bunovino, but whichever wines you choose, have fun experimenting.