Matching cheese to wine for the perfect night in
Five cheese and wine pairings worthy of centre stage billing...
Beware of the over-simple formula of any old cheese with any old red wine.
Few cheeses are robust enough to stand up to big beefy reds and in the ensuing shouting match you lose much of the nuances of both.
Opting instead for excellent cheese with a carefully matched wine might seem brave but if you get it right, it'll be a very stylish statement.
Here's five cheese and wine pairings worthy of centre-stage billing, plus a couple of versatile wines if you insist on going the chorus-line route.
A mature hard cow's milk cheese such as an aged Gouda (or Irish equivalents Coolea or Mossfield) or even Parmesan has surprising complexity of flavour. In northern Italy, Parmesan is served in large wheels or wedges, with a small almond-shaped knife used to break off bite-sized chunks. Eating in this tactile and sociable way showcases the cheese's granular nuttiness. Serve with Grappa and Granny Smith apple, or with bread sticks, ripe apricot or figs and either a rich white wine such as an Australian Hunter Valley Semillon or a robust Cabernet-based red.
INSIDER PICK: 'Hochar Pere et Fils' 2008, Chateau Musar, Lebanon (€17.49; widely available including at O'Brien's, Next Door, and McCambridge's, Galway).
Goat's cheese and Sauvignon Blanc is a classic pairing, and for good reason: the signature grassy character of chèvre from the French Loire Valley is matched by the herbaceous character of their local generously acidic wine. Consider sweetening the deal with a creamy goat's gouda (such as Killeen or Knockdrinna Gold) or opting for a salty sheep's cheese (such as Spanish Manchego or Irish Cratloe Hills or Knockalara). Chenin Blanc, Picpoul de Pinet, a Loire red or a Manzanilla sherry would make for an interesting alternative.
INSIDER PICK: Domaine des Grandes Esperances Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2012, France (€13.50; Supervalu). Mineral-laced style with a clean lemon finish.
If you like your cheese pungent and ripe, then you'll want to match it with something equally rich and aromatic. Washed rind semi-soft cheese (think earthy Milleens or buttery Durrus) work beautifully with off-dry whites, such as a floral-infused Alsace Gewürztraminer or fragrant dry Muscat. The creamy texture of white-mould surface-ripened styles (such as St Killian Brie, Wicklow Baun, Cooleeney and Cavanbert) would be cut nicely by some bubbles. Consider opting for a sparkling wine. Or take a completely different approach with an earthy but juicy Pinot Noir.
INSIDER PICK: Meyer-Fonne Gentil d'Alsace, France (€15.95, available at Le Caveau, Kilkenny, Baggot Street Wines, Dublin ,and selected independents) A blend of Muscat, Pinot Blanc, Riesling and Gewürztraminer.
Ireland has some great smoked cheeses, from buttery Gubbeen and nutty Ardrahan to meaty Knockanore. These can handle a red wine as long as it's somewhat restrained and has some juicy acidity and peppered berry fruits to complement the smoky character. Think Syrah from northern Rhone, or seek out a Shiraz from one of Australia's cooler climate regions, such as Margaret River or Frankland River in Western Australia. Or if you're willing to take a chance on a smoky Pinotage from South Africa, there's some surprisingly charming ones out there.
INSIDER PICK: Houdamond Pinotage 2010, Stellenbosch, South Africa (€14.29; Marks & Spencer) Expect concentrated cassis and dried black cherries matched by tangy acidity and warm spices.
If wine and cheese don't cut the mustard, or you're planning a slightly glitzier night at home, this new release will have you covered.
Smirnoff vodka have introduced their latest product Gold, a cinnamon flavoured liquor with pretty golden flakes floating in the liquid. If you're hardcore, it's delicious over ice. However if you need a mixer, try this delicious cocktail idea straight from the Smirnoff mixologist...
Smirnoff Apple Bite (1.5 units)
Smirnoff Gold Vodka 40ml
Apple Juice 60ml
Fill your tall glass with cubed ice before pouring in
Smirnoff, apple juice and lemonade.
Squeeze in the fresh lime and stir well.