July’s Cheeses

Le Vlimeux (Quebec)

Tiger Blue (British Columbia)

Lyndsay (Ontario)

Seaside Sheep Cheddar (PEI)

Four-Year-Old Cheddar (Quebec)

In honour of Canada Day, I’ve put together an array of cheeses from across the country, from sea to sea—if not quite to the third sea, alas (if anyone knows of cheese made up North, please do let me know!). We’re still missing Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and the Territories, but today I’m pleased to add a British Columbian cheese to our repertoire, along with a superb goat cheese I picked up in Toronto, two Quebec cheeses picked up by a friend of mine along the St Lawrence, and one from just up the road in our own back yard.

Le Vlimeux

Fromagerie le Mouton Blanc, Bas-St-Laurent, Quebec

As befits a cheesemaker called ‘the White Sheep’, le Vlimeux is a sheep milk cheese. It’s made from raw (unpasteurized) milk produced on the farm—the makers describe their operation as the “marriage of the Shepherd and the Cheesemaker”—hard to go wrong there! They began as a sheep farm, which in the late 1990s was one of the biggest in Quebec. Increasing costs of shipping the milk to sell led them to develop the cheese-making side of the business, to our great benefit.

Le Vlimeux is a semi-firm pressed raw cheese. It is aged for four months, then smoked in the on-site smoker with maple wood. This gives an unusual maple-sweetness element to the flavour, which as the makers say makes it reminiscent of smoked trout. They suggest pairing it with Scotch or artisanal beer, or with Australian Chardonnay, Rioja, or Sancerre wines.

Tiger Blue

Poplar Grove Cheese, Penticton, British Colombia

Poplar Grove Cheese, located at the same site as Lock & Worth Winery, was created in 2002 to be a partner to the wines of the Okanagan—for what better pairing could there be than the local wine with the local cheese? They use pasteurized cow milk sourced from a dairy in Sicamous to create their small-batch cheeses. They currently make four types of cheese, of which Tiger Blue is their blue.

Tiger Blue is a veined blue (like Stilton or Shropshire Blue), with a strong bite and a slightly salty taste. Rich and intense are two words the maker uses to describe it.

Try it, obviously, with an Okanagan wine. As a strong blue I would go for a full-bodied red like a Shiraz or a Baco Noir. You could also try a dessert wine or a sweeter rosé; dryer wines will bring out a more metallic flavour. Most blues pair very well with fruit. We don’t get the Okanagan peaches here, but the Ontario ones should be coming soon …

Lindsay Bandaged Goat Cheddar

Mariposa Dairy, Lindsay, Ontario

The Mariposa Dairy in Lindsay, Ontario, makes a variety of goat and sheep milk cheeses. They make the Plain Goat that I have regularly, as well as Tania Sheep Cheese, which I will have at the stall later this month. All their cheeses are pasteurized and made using vegetarian-friendly rennet. I was in Toronto recently and acquired the Bandaged Goat Cheddar there, so it is a special treat—though I will do my best to find a regular supplier of it, as I am certain it will be a favourite of many.

The Bandaged Goat Cheddar is made in small batches to keep the quality high—that they succeed in doing so is shown in the large number of awards the cheese has won since it was first launched in 2011. (In 2011 it won Champion at the British Empire Cheese Festival, first in Goat Cheddar/tied for second as Best of Show at the American Cheese Society, and Grand Champion at the [Toronto] Royal Agricultural Winter Fair; it’s won First Place at various Canadian and international competitions in every year since except for 2012, which must have been a particularly intense year.)

After the cheese has been pressed into shape, the wheels are wrapped in cheesecloth and placed on a pine board in the aging room. They are turned each week for at least a year to ensure their even aging. This results in a nutty, earthy, and slightly crumbly cheese. (You might compare to Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar or Wookey Hold Cave-Aged Cheddar, which are made similarly.) Lindsay Bandaged Goat Cheddar has lactic acid crystals in the paste—a much sought-after element in a well-aged cheddar.

Seaside Sheep Cheddar

Oldfields Dairy, Oyster Bed, PEI

We’ve had a number of Oldfields Dairy’s offerings over the last year. This month I have a limited-edition sheep’s milk cheddar for you—limited edition because the shepherd is Gabriel Mercier of Isle St Jean Farm, and he is now using his sheep milk for his delectable yoghurt and Alexis Doiron cheese. Oldfields Dairy usually use their own goats’ milk for their cheeses (and soap!), so this is a special cheese indeed.

The Seaside Sheep Cheddar is a mild cheddar (aged under a year), with a clean taste with hints of lanolin. Try it with a local beer—I reckon Upstreet’s Rhuby Social would go nicely—or with a white wine or lighter red, such as a Rioja or a Sauvignon Blanc.

Four-Year-Old Cheddar

Fromagerie des Basques, Quebec

From along the lower St Lawrence comes this four-year-old cheddar. It never ceases to amaze me how much variety there is in the world of cheddars—the three in this month’s box, made from three different milks according to several different processes, are a small sampling of those available. There are reasons why it is the world’s most popular cheese—relative ease of creation and manifold ways to enjoy it being but two, one on each side of the cheesemaker/cheese-eater divide.

This particular cheddar has a tendency to crumble and a slightly sweet hint to its paste. My assistant described it as being almost Swiss-like; it does have a hint of that nutty-sweet-tang of the Alpine cheeses. Try it with a beer (I think it might go well with an IPA or American Pale Ale) or with the Rioja left over from the previous entry.

Omelette with Aged Cheddar, Smoked Salmon, and Asparagus

Adapted from the Fromagerie des Basques website

Omelettes do not need much instruction, but sometimes it’s nice to have a suggestion for a filling. In this case, add chives to the eggs before they are cooked, and try layering a few slices of Four-Year-Old Cheddar (the Goat Cheddar would also be particularly lovely here) with smoked salmon and blanched asparagus.

 

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June’s Cheeses

Alexis Doiron (PEI)

Pionnier (Quebec)

Cows Cultured Butter (PEI)

Cendré des Prés (Quebec)

This month we have two cheeses from Quebec and two from Prince Edward Island—or, I should say, one cheese and one other cultured dairy product, in this case butter. As only the Alexis Doiron really lends itself to cooking, I only have one recipe—but you ended up with a bit more cheese than usual, so I hope that evens out. You may, of course, choose to cook with the Pionnier, in anything where you might otherwise use something like Comté or Gruyere, but to me it would be better off enjoyed on a cheese platter.

 

Alexis Doiron

Isle Saint Jean Farm, North Rustico, PEI

Gabriel Mercier is one of the newer cheesemakers on PEI. He has a sheep farm up in North Rustico and makes cheese and yoghurt from his ewes’ milk. This month we have his new cheese, Alexis Doiron, a fresh pressed cheese made somewhat in the style of a halloumi.

Fresh, salty from the brine in which it is plunged to stop the acidification process, and slightly squeaky when you bite into it, Alexis Doiron is a delightful cheese for eating fresh, on salads, or for grilling. (It’s best to grill it from fridge temperature, as leaving it too long at room temperature can cause the acidity of the curd to change, thus affecting the availability of calcium in the cheese, which in turn causes it to melt all over the grille rather than broil nicely.)

The cheese is named after Gabriel’s wife’s ancestor, the first of the Doirons to reside on PEI and a man of many moves. Born in Pisiquid (modern-day Windsor, Nova Scotia), he emigrated to PEI in the 1750. His family was caught up in the Deportation, sent to various locations in France before returning at length to Prince Edward Island and the Rustico area.

Try it grilled, as part of a sandwich, or in a salad. I should think a dryer white wine or a cider would be a good pairing.

 

Cow’s Sea Salted Cultured Butter

Prince Edward Island

I grant that butter is not, strictly speaking. cheese, but I hope you will enjoy trying this particular type of butter even so. (Possibly with the cheese!) Most of the butter that one buys in Canada is churned butter, which by Canadian regulation must contain 80% fat, about 16 % water, and about 3% milk solids. It can be salted (or with reduced salt) or unsalted. Sometimes the unsalted type is kept in the freezer compartment, as it does not have nearly the shelf life of the salted versions.

Another type of butter, of which this is an example, is cultured butter. It’s also called ‘European-style’, ‘old-fashioned’, or ‘antique’ butter, which gives you an idea of its age and origin. Cultured butter is also churned, but instead of fresh cream it is made with slightly soured cream cultured with active bacteria, similarly to how yoghurt is produced. It has a distinctive, slightly tangy taste, with a more complex flavour profile than simply churned butter.

Cow’s Sea Salted Cultured Butter takes this one step further, churning the cream more slowly and for a longer period than is usual—as with their ice cream, this has the effect of incorporating fewer air bubbles into the butter, leaving it with a silkier texture and creamier taste. Then, of course, it is salted with sea salt.

You can use cultured butter for any purpose for which you might use regular salted butter. It is naturally exceptionally good with good bread or crackers and cheese.

 

Le Pionnier

Fromagerie Nouvelle France, Quebec

This cheese is, unusually, made from a mixture of raw sheep’s milk and raw cow’s milk—not a common combination! It is the work of two cheesemakers, Marie-Chantal Houde of the Fromagerie Nouvelle France and Jean Morin of the Fromagerie du Presbytere, both in Quebec. One supplies the sheep’s milk, the other the cow’s; the cheeses, conceived as being ‘made with four hands’ are made by both cheesemakers.

The cheeses are made in 40kg wheels and carefully aged for 10 to 12 months. As you might expect from the long curing process, the flavours are complex, beginning with a slightly sweet creaminess and developing numerous nutty overtones, especially hints of macadamia and hazlenuts. The makers suggest it has a slight floral overtone, similarly to an Alpine Beaufort.

Try with a medium red wine, perhaps an Apricot Ale from the St-Ambroise brewery, or a cider.

 

Cendré des Prés

Fromagerie du Domain Féodal, Quebec

A soft cheese with a bloomy rind, Cendré des Prés is made from the milk of four farms close to the cheesemaker. Its notable feature is the line of (edible) maple wood ash running through the centre of the paste. It was the first soft-ripened cheese to feature a line of ash in this manner (something many of you will be familiar with from the Douanier at my stall). I think you will agree with me—and with the various world cheese competition judges who have awarded it numerous silver and finalist places—that it is both aesthetically very pleasing and also tasty.

The cheese has a slight chalky texture towards the centre, ripening towards ooze near the rind. It is mild; the slight tang, similar to the cultured butter, is accompanied by faint hints of mushrooms and honey, and perhaps even a hint of grapefruit.

Try it with a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio, a white beer, or a dry cider.

 

 

 

 

March’s Cheeses

Le Migneron de Charlevoix (Quebec)

Five Brothers Smoked (Ontario)

Caciocavallo (Ontario)

Peppercorn Ewesual (PEI)

This month we’ve got a nice range of textures and flavours, from the saddlebag-shaped Cacciocavalo to the washed-rind stickiness of Le Migneron de Charlevoix. Rounding out your box are a smoked gouda from Ontario and a sheep’s milk one from here on PEI. Enjoy!

 

 Le Migneron de Charlevoix

Maison d’affinage Dufour, Charlevoix, Quebec

The mid-1990s saw a resurgence in artisanal cheese making in Quebec; Le Migneron de Charlevoix was one of the four that started the movement off, and much may we all be grateful to it for doing so! It was created by Maurice Dufour in 1994 and named after Anne Migneron, the first wife of the first Dufour to come to Quebec in the mid 17th century. It continues to be made by Laiterie Charlevoix, then aged by M. Dufour (“Maison d’Affinage” means ‘house of maturing’).

We do not always think about how much of an art properly aging a cheese is, but Le Migneron is an example of its importance. The management of the cultures, humidity, rind washes, salting, turning, and so on affect the development of flavours and textures quite considerably. It was M. Dufour’s idea to bring a de-centralized method of cheesemaking (the frutière method) to Quebec from the Jura, where he studied. This common-sense approach separates out the dairy from the cheesemaker and, in this case, from the aging rooms (caves). It is the opposite of the farmstead approach, where everything happens in one facility.

Le Migneron is a semi-firm washed-rind cheese, similar in appearance to Oka. Its rind is a rich peachy colour, with scents of straw and stable. The interior paste is creamy, delicate, and with a lingering flavour.

You can certainly cook with Le Migneron, but it would also be splendid with good bread, perhaps a little butter, and some fruit—grapes, perhaps. Try pairing it with a Pinot Noir or a fruity white. A lighter Belgian ale might be a nice accompaniment, too.

Five Brothers Smoked

Gunn’s Hill Artisanal Cheeses, Woodstock, Ontario

Gunn’s Hill is a small cheesemaking facility in the heart of Ontario’s dairy country. The cheesemaker, Shep Ysselstein, is of Dutch descent. He was trained in the art of cheesemaking in the US, British Columbia, and Switzerland, and reflects Alpine influences in his cheeses. The milk used comes from the family farm (run by the cheesemaker’s brothers) next door, so although it’s not quite farmstead cheese it’s very close.

Five Brothers is primarily in the style of a gouda with Appenzeller influences. It is aged for a minimum of eight months, resting on cedar planks that delicately flavour the cheese. This particular version is then smoked, adding a rich complexity to the creamy, rich flavour. You will notice that it is quite crumbly in texture without being dry.

Try the Five Brothers Smoked with Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc wines, Pilsener beers, and perhaps a dry cider to complement the smokiness.

 

Beemster Goat Gouda

Beemster Polder, Netherlands

Beemster is a major producer of excellent goudas. Their goat gouda is a recent addition to their range, from 2007. It is a deliciously smooth and creamy cheese with a faint tang but no sharp goatiness—‘silky’ is the word they use to describe it. The milk comes from local farmers in the Beemster polder. It is a dairy cooperative, so they had to approve the resulting cheese—which they did, and which I think we can, too.

Try it with dark breads, walnuts, or avocado—and for drinks, a wheat beer or IPA.

 

Peppercorn Ewesual

Glasgow Glen Farms, New Glasgow, PEI

We’ve had other goudas from Jeff McCourt at Glasgow Glen Farms in New Glasgow, PEI. This one is a variation on their popular sheep’s milk Ewesual cheese, adding peppercorns and red chili pepper flakes to the mix. This particular wheel is mild-medium; it has started to attain the sharper flavour and crumblier texture of an older gouda, but is still quite flexible and smoothly cut.

The sheep’s milk used for the Ewesual comes from Allister and Margaret Veinot’s farm in Avondale, PEI. (You may remember them as the owners of the cheese booth at the Market before I took over last year; I still carry their eggs.) They have what was once the only milking flock of sheep east of Quebec—they’ve been joined by a few others since, but still continue to milk their sixty-odd ewes. Some of their milk goes to New Brunswick to be made into cheese at the Bergerie 4 Vents, but most becomes the Ewesual and Ewesual Peppercorn at Glasgow Glen Farms.

Try the Peppercorn Ewesual with a merlot or a minerally white wine.

It’s splendid as a cheese plate cheese, but you can also use it the way Glasgow Glen Farms does, on pizza.

 

 

 

April’s Cheeses

Oka L’Artisan Smoke (Quebec)

Bleu Bénédictin (Quebec)

Landana Sheep Cheese Mild (Netherlands)

Yorkshire Wensleydale (England)

This month we have two cheeses made by monks in Quebec, a Dutch sheep’s milk cheese, and one of the classic English cheeses, Wensleydale. Any of them—even the Wensleydale—could be the key to making your very own superb hamburger for Burger Love, if none of the 84 or so on offer are quite perfect. Enjoy!

 

 Oka L’Artisan Smoke

Oka, Quebec

In the early 1880s, five Trappist monks established a monastery in Oka, Quebec. They were supposed to be self-sufficient, but found this a struggle until their mother abbey sent Brother Alphonse Juin with a recipe for Port-Salut cheese. They adapted the recipe into what became known as Oka, and won a prize at the Montreal Exhibition that same year. While their fromagerie was bought by Agropur in the 1980s, the monks are still involved in supervising the process and keeping the traditions alive.

A fairly new addition to the Oka family of cheeses, Oka L’Artisan Smoked is a European-style firm cheese. You will notice the eyes (holes) in the paste of the cheese, which are almost the size you would expect in an Emmentaler. Albeit new, the cheese continues the tradition—it won first prize in the ‘flavoured firm cheese’ category at the British Empire Cheese Show in 2016.

Try it with apples, raisins, or a slightly bitter ale—or a Trappist beer, of course.

 

Landana Sheep Cheese Mild

Vandersterre Group, the Netherlands

Landana is a division of the Vandersterre Group in the central part of the Netherlands— the “Green Heart of Holland,” an area to the east of the Hague full of dairy pastures and windmills. Cheeses have been made in this region for over sixteen hundred years, as it is fertile dairy country, whether for cattle or sheep (or, indeed, goats). Landana Sheep Cheese Mild is made to an ancient tradition, although it received its name in the 20th century after Piet van der Sterre began his cheese-selling business. It is made from local sheep’s milk, then aged on wooden shelves and turned by hand for several weeks until aged to perfection. It won “Best of the Best”—the gold medal—at the World Cheese Expo in Madison, Wisconsin, in 2012, and continues to be excellent.

It is a mild but slightly piquant semi-firm cheese, creamy and smooth in texture, with a lingering aftertaste. In case you were curious, it is quite low-fat and both lactose and gluten free.

Try it with a Belgian-style white beer, a white wine, and with grapes or dried apricots on a cheese plate.

 

Bleu Bénédictin

Abbaye St-Benoît-du-Lac, Quebec

The Benedictine monks of St-Benoît-du-Lac was founded in 1912 by the exiled monks of St-Wandrille (originally from France, exiled in 1901 to Belgium, whence they emigrated to Canada). Part of the rule of St Benedict is an understanding that productive work is good for the soul as well as for practical bodily concerns, which is one of the reasons why so many monasteries have such splendid traditions of making cheese, bread, wine, cider, and beer.

The Abbey has made Bleu Bénédictin since 2000. It is a semi-soft blue-veined cheese, made from pasteurized whole milk. It is both surface and interior-ripened with Penicillum roqueforti cultures, which give blue cheese its blue (and which traditionally was cultured on a piece of bread), though the colour of its slightly sticky rind is a pleasing soft greyish colour, with a faint mushroomy fragrance. (The rind is edible, though that is of course up to you. Any leftover rinds of blue cheese are splendid grated/melted into an onion soup.) It has a soft, nearly melting centre, and a long smooth finish on the palate. It’s no surprise that the cheese has placed numerous times in both national and international cheese competitions.

Try it with a fortified wine (such as a ruby port), a Riesling, or an ice wine. You might also try a not-too-dry cider; sweeter flavours complement blue cheeses very nicely

  

Yorkshire Wensleydale

Wensleydale Creamery, Hawes, Yorkshire, England

Usually just referred to as “Wensleydale,” true Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese is made only within the Yorkshire Dales—a splendidly beautiful region (and National Park) in West Yorkshire, just east of the Lake District. The Wensleydale Creamery in Hawes produces approximately 4000 tons of cheese annually, is a major tourism destination, and consider themselves custodians of a thousand-year tradition. (The cheese was originally made by Cistercian monks around 1100; the creamery is very pleased for the cheese to enter its second millennium with European Union geographic protection!) While probably better known as Wallace and Grommit’s favourite cheese, in my family it is ‘our’ cheese—for although my father is from North Yorkshire, one of his cousins used to be a cheesemaker at the Wensleydale Creamery, and it is a necessary cheese for certain holidays, especially Christmas. One year (long before I had a cheese stall) he ended up buying a whole wheel for Christmas … it was substantially larger than our Christmas cake, but didn’t much last longer.

Yorkshire Wensleydale is tangy, crumbly, yet moist cheese. If chalk (famously different from cheese) were delicious, it might be something like Wensleydale. In my family we eat with Christmas cake or other slightly sweet baked goods—scones with raisins, any fruit cake, Welsh bara brith, Eccles cake, or to be seasonal about it, Hot Cross Buns would all be splendid, as indeed something like apple pie or crumble. Naturally, it also goes very well on a cheese plate with dried fruit (dates, dried apricots, dried cherries). Try it with a New World Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc to match the tanginess.

 

 

May’s Cheeses

Fromager d’Affinois (France)

Wookey Hole Cave Aged Cheddar (England)

Crotonese (Canada)

Dubliner (Ireland)

 

Fromager d’Affinois

France

Whenever people ask me what my favourite cheese is, I usually tell them one of two: Red Leicester and Fromager d’Affinois. This month I decided that my usual reluctance to include soft cheeses in cheese club (due to difficulties in cutting and presenting) would be waived because of how lovely it is to cut, and of course to eat, Fromager d’Affinois.

Fromager d’Affinois is a double cream surface ripened soft cheese, closely akin to Brie. It has a lusciously smooth texture closer to that of a triple-cream cheese because the makers use an ultra-filtration process on the milk. Similar to the process of homogenization, this extra filtration removes some of the water and distributes the fats and proteins more evenly throughout the paste of the cheese. This also has the benefit of quickening the maturation process (generally two weeks rather than eight for a traditional Brie). I find it aesthetically a deeply pleasing cheese, with a slight ripple to the rind and an aroma more herbal than mushroomy. The rind adds a slight change of texture without notably changing the flavour.

It is splendid with crusty bread and a light red, such as a Beaujolais or a red Zinfandel. You could also try it with fruit (say a fig paste) and a white such as Sauvignon Blanc or an unoaked Chardonnay—or for true decadence, some sparkling white.

 

Wookey Hole Cave Aged Cheddar
England

Cheddar is one of the most popular cheeses in the world—and, as you know, has a wide range of textures and flavours. Unlike cheeses such as Stilton or Taleggio, it is not a protected name; cheddar refers to a method (by which curds are cut into blocks and stacked in inverted piles, which changes the acidity of the curds and thus the flavour) more than an origin, but even then, there are many cheeses that are called cheddars that do not use that process. Some are bound in cloth and waxed (sometimes with lard)—PEI’s own Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar follows that method; others are extruded mechanically into blocks and tend to have a creamier texture (and just to show the difference, Cows’ Extra-Old Cheddar, made by the same company and cheesemaker as Avonlea Clothbound, is one such). There is a British 1966 Codex of Trading Standards that states that cheddars must be under 39% moisture, and that’s it for official standards.

However, Cheddar does have an origin—the Cheddar Gorge and the town of Cheddar in Somerset, in fact—and people are still making traditional cheddars there. There is a ‘West Country’ PDO (“Protected Designation of Origin”), ensuring protection for cheddars made in the counties of Somerset, Dorset, Devon, and Cornwall … but there are a number of artisanal cheddar producers who do not feel that the PDO has an appropriate standard, and have formed their own.

Wookey Hole is a well-known cave in Somerset, currently owned by a former ringmaster and circus owner, which was and has once more become a traditional aging and storage place for cheese some four hundred (and likely many more) years ago. The caves are the ideal temperature for maturing cheese (about 11 degrees C, with high humidity). The cheeses are made in Dorset by Ford Farm on the Ashley Chase estate (and do have the PDO), and matured in the caves for about a year. They are wrapped in cloth and brushed with lard to protect the wheels as they mature (the cloths are removed prior to transport).

The flavours are nutty and round with a slight edge characteristic of a medium-aged cheddar. Try it with a cider or an English ale. Cheddars are a great cooking cheese, of course, delicious with everything from pickled onions to apple pie.

 

Crotonese

Ontario

Crotonese originated in the Italian town of Crotona, where it is a semi-firm aged sheep’s milk cheese with a granular texture. The Canadian version (made by Salerno) is slightly milder, harder cheese, in this case made with cow’s milk. It has an ivory-coloured rind marked with small indentations (representing the wicker baskets of the original cheese) and a pale, slightly coarse-textured paste. It is excellent paired with salami, olives, and red wine (try a Chianti).

 

Dubliner

Ireland

If you are ever in the city of Cork, Ireland, and at a lost for something to do on a rainy afternoon, I recommend visiting the Cork Butter Museum. There you will learn the history (as it turns out) of the Kerrygold company, which took the ancient butter-making history of Cork and turned it into a modern success story. (It is something like the O’Leary Potato Museum in effect.) Didn’t know that Cork was once one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of butter? It was the last great port before trans-Atlantic sailing journeys, so people stopped there to resupply. Barrel-making was a major industry, and so was butter.

Over time the Kerrygold company expanded from butter to other splendid milk products, including what they term a cross between a cheddar and a Parmigiano-Reggiano style cheese, Dubliner. Obviously named after the city of Dublin, it is in fact made in Cork, from the milk of grass-fed cows. Dubliner has a rich flavour ranging from nutty through sharp to sweet, with some lactic acid crystals (visible as white spots) in the cheese. Its range of flavour means it pairs well with a variety of libations, including rich reds like Cabernet or a Guinness.