Packs of artisan cheeses and crispbread, together with English wine, porter and cider, were delivered to participants’ homes for London Branch’s delightful December Zoom cheese and wine tasting – and with cider and porter too.
Greg Parsons, the owner of Sharpham’s Dairy in Totnes, one of the finest cheese makers in Devon, led us through the following pairings, aided by Tom Wedgery from the Sharpham / Sandridge wine team.
Sharpham Brie with Sharpham Dart Valley Reserve 2018
Sharpham Brie has been hand made at Sharpham since 1981, with milk from their Jersey herd of cows. It was rich and creamy with mushroom notes, imparting a sweetness to the off-dry wine. It won a Gold medal at the 2019 Food & Drink Devon Awards, and a Silver medal at Taste of the West Product Awards 2020.
Sharpham Dart Valley Reserve 2018 was a well balanced wine, with aromas of pear and peach, a ripe palate with a touch of spice, and a mineral finish. Its acidity worked well with the Jersey milk flavours of the cheese. It is made from Bacchus, Madeleine Angevine and Chardonnay grapes. The wine achieved a Gold Medal at the Sommelier Wine Awards 2019.
Sharpham Ticklemore with Sharpham Pinot Noir 2018
Sharpham Ticklemore cheese is made from goats’ milk. It had a firm texture. Perceptible hints of lemon and herbs showed through its rounded maturity. It was awarded a Silver medal at Taste of the West Product Awards 2020.
Sharpham Pinot Noir showed red fruit character with soft tannins from French oak. It was a fine example of a light, cool climate Pinot Noir. The goats’ cheese lifted the wine’s flavours. Although Pinot Noir has become the most widely planted grape in the UK, most is used for producing English sparkling wine. Well done to make this varietal wine!
Sharpham Washbourne with Sharpham Pinot Noir 2018
Sharpham Washbourne unpressed washed curd cheese is made from sheep’s milk. It had a smooth texture and a nutty tang. It brought out the earthy, rustic, savoury qualities of the Pinot Noir.
Quicke’s Oak Smoked Cheddar with Salcombe Brewery’s Ocean Cider
Quicke’s Oak Smoked Cheddar is hand crafted using milk from grass-fed cows, clothbound and naturally matured for several months. The oak chips used are from trees on the Quicke’s estate, giving the cheese a smoky, buttery taste.
Ocean Cider is made from West Country cider apples. It is a lightly sparkling, full bodied, medium dry, traditional cider.
Devon Blue with Salcombe Brewery’s Island Street Porter
Devon Blue is an unpressed cows’ milk cheese. Its texture was crumbly and it had a mineral sharpness, combined with a creamy, buttery richness.
Island Street Porter is a rich blend of eight malts. Its coffee-like characteristics neutralised any incipient bitterness and toned down the sharpness of the cheese, bringing out the porter’s velvety smooth chocolate flavours. It was awarded Champion Beer by Taste of the West in 2019 and 2020.
To add to the general jollity, there was a quiz. Those of us paying sufficient attention during the tasting sent in our answers by email, and we were advised the following day of the winner – Alan Shepherd – of a prize donated by the winery.
Our thanks to Roger Ellis, who organised the splendid event (and the responses to the quiz!).