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Few can contest that one of the best things about the festive season is the excuse to indulge. For some that first bite into a mince pie marks the beginnings of Christmas; a treat that quickly escalates over the season culminating in a slate board adorned with a selection of cheese befitting this time of year. This savoury nibble is perfect for entertaining or simply enjoyed as a heavy-duty snack. It is also equally ideal as the finisher to a meal and is excellent when paired with a glass of port.
Oh yes, that cheese and port combo is a no-brain-answer to that sweet versus savoury post-dinner conundrum. It serves perfectly for those who are married to the idea of dessert after a meal but yet can’t resist another hit of something savoury on the palate.
With Christmas just around the corner (and gathering restrictions still up in the air) there are bound to be lots of small (safe) get-togethers instead of one large celebration. Nothing goes better with the festivities than the sweet, creamy, salty, sharp explosion of flavours from a cheese and port mash-up.

If you’re not much of a cheese or port connoisseur but still want to get pairings just right experts Amanda Lloyd from the vintage port house Fonseca and Hero Hirish from Paxton and Whitfield (the UK’s oldest cheesemonger) give us the low-down on what ports work best with some classic cheeseboard favourites.

Hard Cheeses
Manchego Curado PDO and Fonseca Siroco
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Manchego Curado PDO is made with sheep’s milk and has a gorgeous delicate flavour. It’s creamy with a light saltiness to the flavour that compliments the grassy, herbal notes of the rind. This Manchego goes great with a white port; the Fonseca Siroco has a sweet, fruitiness and a refreshingly crisp and dry body that rounds off the flavour of the cheese.
Westcombe Cheddar PDO and Fonseca LBV 2015
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A cheddar with some depth, the creamy, slightly vegetal taste goes well with the salty, tangy notes. This complex tasting cheddar is brought to new heights when paired with the Fonseca LBV 2015. Delicious in its own rights thanks to the deep sweetness of the berries, the crisp tannins in this port also work to amplify the flavour of the cheese.
Gruyère Premier Cru and Paxton’s 10 YO Tawny
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Paxton’s 10 YO Tawny paired with Gruyère Premier Cru is a match made in heaven. The tawny has a gorgeous burnt-brown-sugar scent with an addictive toffee taste. Robust fruity notes also come out in the flavour. The sweet currant and berry flavour teams up well with the gentle tartness in the Gruyère and are pleasing against the cheese’s buttery, salty taste.
Soft and Blue Cheese
Golden Cross and Fonseca Bins 27 Port
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The Golden Cross is full of flavour. The tart and lactic notes create a moreish flavour against the sweet, creamy, milky ones. A cheese like this needs an impactful wine that adds to the flavour without overshadowing its delicate nature. Fonseca’s Bins 27 is perfect for that. Packed with sweet fruitiness, the notes of blackberries and cherries with the skin on are insanely delicious without being overbearing.
Shropshire Blue and Fonseca Guimaraens Vintage 2008
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(*available from Paxton and Whitfield online in December or call 01451823460 to order)
What happens when you take the complex flavours of the Shropshire blue and pair it with the sweetness of the Fonseca Guimaraens? You get a perfectly, wonderful sing-song of a combo that fills the mouth. Mushroom-y, salty and earthy with a creamy texture, these flavours marry well with the port which has a sweet cherry, currant taste and a mild tartness.
If you’re looking for a cheese and port pairing that strays from this list but are a little unsure of what to go for, cheese guru Hero has some sage advice:
“Whilst it may sound like a contradiction, harmonious matches – where there are similar characteristics – can be just as satisfying as contrasting matches. It’s hard to beat a contrasting match like a Vintage port with stilton, but pairing a tawny port – with its nutty caramel notes – with an alpine cheese that has similar properties can be heavenly.”
Still stuck? The Paxton 10 YO Tawny has been hailed as the top pick of ports thanks to its versatility and ability to match a wide range of cheese styles.

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Janet A Leigh

Janet A Leigh

For more on the latest food ,TV and Film news follow me on Instagram @The_Hungry_TV_Junkie

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