Hello to spring cheeses and crisp white and rosé wines with some warm, sunny spring days (finally) upon us, and farewell to Raclette and Vacherin Mont D'Or.
While the spring sunshine and warmer weather has only recently reached the British Isles it's been 'spring' in Provence since Christmas Day when the first sheep were milked for cheeses that don't usually hit our counters till a few months into the year.
Spring is generally marked by being the first time the animals - whether cows, sheep or goats are let out of their winter barns and back into the fields for some fresh grass. This changes the milk and brings a grassy and later floral flavour to most cheeses. Great examples of spring cheese are Buchette de Manon, made in Simiane-la-Rotonde, Provence, France. François and Vanessa Masto's herd of 70 Roves goats roam the steep, limestone foothills of Alpes de Haute Provence nibbling at wild grasses and flowers making a rich, creamy goat's milk which in turn makes a lactic (think yoghurty) hand-ladled cheese, low in salt, which lets the floral flavours shine through. Finished with a sprinkling of rosemary ash it's also a very pretty addition to any spring/summer cheeseboard.
A special edition for Easter at Gershon & Sons is Chabichou Fleur - Chabichou hails from the Poitou Chèvre creamery in Bougon, Poitou-Charentes, France. The dairy has been producing since 1906 and today is run by a family-firm with production focused exclusively on local cheeses. Chabichou has a yeasty geotrichum rind (the beautiful white squiggly finish) and hints of hazelnut on the palette. Chabichou is shared like a bonde (cork/bunge for a wine barrel) which gives nice structural shape to a cheeseboard. For Easter we customise this cheese at Gershon & Sons with an edible viola flower.
Goat's cheeses - whether Continental or British pair exceptionally well with champagne or English sparkling wine, check out our Barons de Rothschild champagne, or locally grown in Marlow, Harrow & Hope (rated one of the top English sparkling wines). But our personal pairing favourite for Buchette de Manon and Chabichou is the Waddesdon Rothschild Collection Piquepoul - a nice light, wine with delicate floral flavours which will hero the cheeses.
Classically lamb is a favourite Easter dish, so it makes perfect sense to include sheep's cheeses on your spring cheeseboard. Sheep's cheese is often an over-looked category with cow's and goat's cheeses being greater in number and variety. But sheep's milk always makes for a tasty cheese and can be a great choice for those lactose-intolerant to cow's milk. Spenwood (awarded Best British Cheese at the 2022 World Cheese Awards) is a local. hard ewe's milk cheese made by Ann Wigmore at Village Maid, in Shinfield, near Reading. Spenwood is matured for 9 months post-making with a thin, edible rind and a nutty flavour which becomes more pronounced with ageing. Made with a vegetarian rennet, many vegetarian customers use Spenwood as a parmesan substitute.
Manchego is arguably one of the best known-sheep's cheese and we are proud to offer 18-24 month aged Manchego Carpuela on our counter - a wonderfully, wholesome Manchego with a buttery edge, clean-tasting and nutty centre.
Slightly more unusual is Ossau Iraty, a sheep's cheese produced exclusively in Helette, the Baque region of the Pyrenees, which takes it's name from two fiercely independent neighbouring valleys - the Basques and the Bearnais. Said to be one of the oldest cheese receipts in existence, dating back 3,000 years, Ossau Iraty is a hard cheese with a silken texture and hints of sweet butterscotch and caramel in its after-taste. A vintage cheese in every way. Pair Ossau Iraty with Chana De Rosas Albarino, a low-growing wine with hints of apple blossom and apple compote on its nose and palate. Another light, delicate white wine which is sure to please this spring and a new addition to our Gershon & Sons collection in Spring 2023.
Chocolate and cheese? Yes these can be paired remarkably well if you keep to lighter cheeses and darker chocolate - plus the colour combination of delicate, white goat's cheese can look stunning against deep, dark chocolate - throw in a handful of blueberries on your spring cheeseboard and you have a winning combination. Or why not try small slices of goat's cheese on top of Paul & Pippa cocoa crackers sealing the cheese to the cracker with a smear of Acacia truffle honey and garnishing with a viola flower. At Easter we sprinkle in some mini eggs and you have a ready-made dessert and cheeseboard all in one.
On the Continent rosé wines are drunk all year round, but in the colder climes of Buckinghamshire we tend to wait till the spring sunshine hits our faces before reaching for the rosé. We are delighted to include two delicious drinking rosés in our Gershon & Sons wine collection - the quaffable Waddesdon Rothschild Collection Rosé produced in small quantities in the South of France for a highly affordable £9.95 per bottle and the salmon-pink Henri Bourgeois Sancerre Rosé 'Les Barrones' with notes and scents of red berries and a touch of pear on the nose. This wine is produced in the same village as another Gershon & Sons' goat's cheese - Crottin de Chavignol - the classic French's goat's cheese - and as they say "what grows together, goes together". Henri Bourgeois Sancerre Rosé is made using 100% Pinot Noir grapes which makes for a refreshingly, fruity wine. Also pairs well with Thai or Asian cuisine and tagines and other spicy dishes.
Finally whatever makes it onto your spring cheeseboard, take the opportunity to invite over some family and friends and enjoy the lighter evenings with good cheese, good wine and good friends.