Spoilt for choice: Choose your cheese wisely. Photo: Marco Del Grande
I'm hosting a wine and cheese night with friends to show off some reds we bought together in South Australia a couple of years ago. What kinds of cheese would be best for a platter?
Circa 1978 your to-do list would have been: supermarket Cracker Barrel Extra Tasty; cut into cubes, impale on toothpicks; resist temptation to add pineapple chunks. Clean ashtrays near tasting table and Fleetwood Mac on turntable. Get claret breathing nicely and slip into a clean kaftan - sorted!
Times change and now we see cheese boards laden with brie, blue and fresh fruit worthy of Carmen Miranda's head. More sophisticated, surely? Well … only up to a point.
Plenty will argue that dried fruit couples nicely with cheese. Few would pair an intense, oaky red with fresh strawberries. Putting them on a cheese platter doesn't magically make the combination excellent. If you want fresh fruit on your cheese board consider sliced apple or pear, but bear in mind the old wine merchants' saying "buy on apples, sell on cheese" - meaning cheese tends to help wine taste better than apples do.
So, to the cheese. If you love the Coonawarra and McLaren Vale reds you bought on holiday, take a leaf from the 1970s and serve a mature, hard cheese. It doesn't have to be cheddar - it could be aged ewe's milk or hard goat's cheese - but it needs to be something that will stand up to the hairy-chested tannins in those wines.
A delicately flavoured white-mould cheese is mostly wasted on these big boys. Opt for one or two generous slabs of properly aged cheese.