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Katherine Donnelly: Say cheese to the ideal duo

With long winter evenings ahead, doesn't the idea of wine and cheese conjure up a cosy feel? Have it at the end of a dinner party, or even as an end in itself

As a general rule, and despite a commonly held view, white wine is the better match with cheese because the tannins in red clash with salt and can cause a metallic taste.

But Elisabeth Ryan of Sheridan's Cheesemongers says there is no need to be "too precious". "What's important," she says, is "to have it in a nice situation, and, better again, enjoy it with good company".

Notwithstanding that licence, Elisabeth says there are definitely ways of bringing out the best of both.

Port and Stilton is a classic, or give it a patriotic twist with Bellingham Blue, awarded Supreme Cheese at the recent, inaugural Irish Cheese Awards. Or, indeed, Cashel Blue.

While the particular saltiness of blue cheese makes it a no-go for red wine, that changes when it comes to the dessert-style port, whose rich sweetness acts as a perfect counterpoint. Tawny is the preferred option, but Elisabeth sees no reason not to enjoy your blue with a ripe, juicy ruby port.

Sauvignon Blanc with goat's cheese is another simple, successful pairing, the high acidity of the former tackling the same characteristic in the latter. That could be a fresh goat's cheese, or a harder style such as the mild, Gouda-like Killeen from Co Galway.

And if you are suffering goat's cheese fatigue from those sliced logs that turn up as the vegetarian option in restaurants, give your tastebuds a treat with an artisan- produced version -- altogether milder, sweeter and more herbal.

The Loire Valley is as famous for its fresh goat's cheese as it is for Sauvignon Blanc, or you can keep it local with Anne Leveque's Triskel from Co Waterford, made in a similar style. Which Sauvignon, then? Any type really. But better to stay with the more restrained examples from France's Loire Valley and, increasingly South Africa.

Now for the red wine devotees! Rules are made to be broken, and so Elisabeth chooses a juicy Chianti to match with the semi-soft, washed-rind Milleens, the very first Irish farmhouse cheese. Similar examples are Durrus, Ardrahan and Gubbeen.

"While it is unusual for me to be suggesting a red wine, and even though this is quite strong cheese, this works," she says.

Irish Independent