If you’re at a lose end on a Saturday afternoon, the weather’s lousy and you have a few hours to spare before an evening out in town, head for the neighbourhood bistro and wine shop Soif in Battersea for one of their regular bi monthly Six Sips Saturdays! Soif is conveniently located about 10 minutes walk from Clapham Junction station.
Of course I should have qualified this by asking if you like wine and cheese although I’m guessing if you’re a follower of this Blog then that’s already implied and understood.
These events are brilliant! The one we attended focused on 6 cheeses from the Vendée area on the French mid west Atlantic coast and cheeses specifically by Fromagerie Beillevaire. These unique and artisan cheeses had inspirational pairings with wines from Soif’s wine list which were in the main clean wines, with geographical coterminosity. At a bargain £20 per head it was a really great way of passing a few hours and increasing our gastronomic knowledge.
We were also joined by Amelié Perraudea from Fromagerie Beillevaire to take us through the tasting notes for each of the cheeses.
It’s no surprise then that these guys are singularly passionate about the provenance and quality of their product. They pride themselves on making not only their own cheeses but also butter (more on this later), in their diary in Machecoul, in the West of France.
Their secret is that they work with just 12 local farmers, collecting the milk individually from each farm and never mixing them! When the milk reaches the diary it’s so fresh and travelled such a short distance that it’s still warm, so there’s no need to reheat it to make the cheese. This creates the optimal conditions in which to make cheese.
And so to the Cheese and Wine Pairings….
Cheese: Cabri d’Ici- Goat’s paired with Wine: 2013 Fief Vendeens Brem “Les Clous” Thierry Michon
Although originally from Poitou, this is now made in the Vendée, where the goats graze on the rich green pastures of reclaimed land. Matured for 4 weeks it has a glossy white meltingly soft texture and a thin blue grey rind. Unpasteurised this cheese has a fresh and tangy taste.
The pairing would be equally at home as an aperitif or with shellfish but worked equally well with the goat’s cheese. A blend of 60% Chenin blanc, 30% Chardonnay and 10% Groslot gris. Grown bio dynamically since 1995 with much of the viticulture done using traditional methods e.g. under the plough. A clear light straw colour with a fruity nose with hints of pear and quince. Crisp and with a good balance of minerality and acidity.
Further info on this second generation producer at: Domaine St Nicholas
Cheese: Valencay- Goat’s paired with Wine: 2013 Touraine “La Tenière” Puzelat-Bonhomme
This cheese has had its own AOC since 1998! It comes from the village of the same name in Indre a region synonymous with the production of quality goat’s cheese. Made from unpasteurised milk , its moulded by hand into a striking pyramid shape. Its charcoal dust coating turns grey/blue as it matures under humid conditions in a ventilated room. Matured for 4/5 weeks it has a fresh tangy flavour that becomes nuttier as the cheese matures.
The wine pairing here is another real gem. Something that the wine buyer at Soif/Terroir is great at! This one from a really small production grown on a terroir of clay and flint. A third of the grapes for this wine remarkably come from 110 year old vines with the balance coming from the younger 40 year old vines!! The grape varietal is also unusual, Romoratin, is a grape variety that is a distance relative of both Chardonnay and Aligoté. Tangy and zesty on the palette as well as refreshing and with good balance of acidity and minerality, in style it reminded me of the silex (flinty) minerality found in some of the best wines of Pouilly-Fumé. This can be best characterised as like licking a wet stone!
Cheese: Machecoulais – Cow’s paired with Wine: 2013 VdF “Les Copins d’Aboard” Domaine Sablonettes
This cheese was the first creation from Beillevaire in 1998. Made from fresh unpasteurised cow’s milk, it is matured for 4-6 weeks developing a creamy velvety rind in the process. Deceptively having the texture of a goat’s cheese with flavours that are fresh and smooth, almost savoury and with light citrus notes.
This pairing was another usual grape varietal. A Grolleau , grown bio-dynamicaly. Appearance is a cloudy violet/red in the glass, a nose that is quite animal-like and rustic with a taste of layers of cherry & plum. The flavours are enhanced by a teaser minerality & smooth acidity. This is a complex and vibrant red & once tasted it will never be forgotten! Its the perfect partner to this creamy cheese!
Cheese: Rocher Nantais – Cow’s paired with Wine: 2014 VdF Touraine “Sans Tralala”, François Plouzeau.
The Rocher Nantais is a creation born out of Beillevaire’s own recipe. It’s very much their take on a Vendée institution , the Curé Nantais, it is made from unpasteurised milk collected from nearby farms. Using only milk of the highest quality, once moulded it is brine washed which yields a thin pale orange rind as the cheese matures. The ivory cheese beneath is meltingly soft and buttery with milky and fruity notes and a subtle hint of hazelnut.
Paired with a 100% Gamay Touraine. Colour is dark mahogany red with notes of strawberries and black pepper on the nose . Minerality and freshness are superb. on the palate almost a taste of stewed plums in red wine. Another winning combination. I got so carried away with this one that I forget to take a photo of the bottle!
Cheese: Brun de Noix – Cow’s paired with Wine: 2014 St. Nicholas de Bourgeuil “Hurluberlu”, Sebastien David.
Originally produced in monasteries, Beillevaire is keeping this tradition alive by producing at their diary in Machecoul. Made from unpasteurised milk, it is regularly brushed with a walnut liquor and kept in a moist cave for up to 2 months. It has the perfect balance between the fresh milky taste of the cheese and the nutty notes of the rind.
The next pairing is from Sebastien David a 15th generation winemaker who works to a clean wine principle with Ecocert Certification and to biodynamic standards. He ferments with wild yeasts and employs carbonic maceration for 25 days. He then follows this with a light pressing to preserve the fruit’s characteristics. The result a classic 100% Cabernet Franc full of red cherry and cranberry flavours that excite the palate.
Cheese: Blue d’Auvergne – Cow’s paired with Wine: 2009 VdF “Isidore”, Didier Chaffardon.
Made from unpasteurised cow’s milk and with its maturation in close proximity to penicllium the source of its blue veins. It matures for at least 4 weeks during which time it develops a thin light brown rind. Yielding a mushroom like aroma but with a moist meltingly soft texture , it has a full flavour as you’d expect from a blue cheese but one that is not too overtly savoury so you taste the sharpness of the blue.
A passionate and biodynamic winemaker Didier Chaffardon produces this semi sweet wine from 100% Chenin Blanc. A mid gold colour in appearance the wine has a nose of plump soaked sultanas. A late harvest wine which is both dry and yet full of honeyed sweetness, the perfect final pairing with the Blue d’Auvergne.
These events are incredibly informal with you sat in groups of 4-6 of like minded individuals and so there is an added pleasure in discussing the merits of the pairings with fellow “foodies”.
I also need to mention the Beillevaire butter!
OMG! Made again from unpasteurised mile and pressed into these beautiful moulds. salted or sweet and with a range of flavoured butters from paprika to peppers and even seaweed!
I’ll definitely be keeping an eye open for more of these events at Soif and be back in SW11 before too long!
If you are a cheeseaholic and want to sample Beillevaire cheese and butter for yourself they opened their first UK shop in 2010 in Knightsbridge at:
7 Montpelier Street
Tel: 0207 584 1231