Living in France for ten years in the 1980s and still spending half my time there each year, I have developed a love of cheese. It is culinary sabotage to serve cheese as finger food before a meal because anything high in protein cuts the appetite. In France, all the liberal people who voted for Macron serve cheese as a course between the main meal and the dessert, the reason being that you don’t go from savoury to sweet then back to savoury again. The problem with this system is that by the end of the meal I am losing the will to live and am too full to appreciate cheese.
We make lots of good cheese in New Zealand so my solution is to either have the main meal (either lunch or dinner) be uniquely cheese and wine or have a cheese and wine afternoon do. That way your stomach is empty and you can really dive in and taste the different cheeses without thinking you’re going to burst. In the fifties we used to have cheese and wine parties when both the wine and cheese were execrable, so I think we should bring back this way of entertaining now that we actually have decent cheese and wine to consume.
Cheese should be kept in the plastic crisper drawer in the bottom of the fridge wrapped in wax paper. Putting plastic wrap on cheese is the same as putting a plastic bag over a baby’s head. When you wish to eat it, take it out of the fridge an hour before to bring it up to room temperature. Try not to eat cheese cold from the fridge – it tastes bitter.
One of the great wine and food match myths is that red wines work well with cheese. This mix rarely works because most cheeses have a high fat content and red wines suffer when drunk with them. Botrytized wines go well with blue cheeses – the sweet and the salty together are heavenly. If you had to choose one wine type that would go with everything, it would be best to go for a dry riesling. Desist from eating cheese with biscuits or crackers as their crunchy texture and saltiness detract from the cheese. Best to use rustic breads, baguettes or walnut and raisin bread with no butter. Serve it simply on a wooden board, standing back from mad chutneys and wild fruit displays. Maybe a slice of quince paste or a fig would be OK. Don’t forget your lipstick.