We're going to be highlighting a few cheeseboards over the coming weeks, to give you a little inspiration on the cheeses that could grace your festive table this holiday season.
We're kicking things off with a board that celebrates the very best British cheeses.
Goats, pasturised, vegetarian (cardoon), Abingdon, Oxfordshire.
With their small herd of anglo Nubian goats, Fraser Norton and Rachel Yarrow began making cheese in 2016, after reading an article farming and cheesemaking whilst holidaying in Sicily. Seven years later, the herd has grown to over 160 goats and the awards are coming in thick and fast for the cheesemakers.
A delicately wrinkled geotrichum rind just barely contains an oozy layer beneath, with a firmer, mousse-like centre to these small cheeses. Flavours are surprisingly light at first, with grassy, herbal notes coming to the fore ahead of a restrained punchiness at the finish.
Light, fresh drinks will pair best with this delicate cheese - it has enough body to balance a fairly acidic white, but look for something with peachy or floral flavours. Smear a dollop over a slice of spanish Fig & Almond Wheel and you're ready to go!
Cows, raw, vegetarian, Wensley, Yorkshire.
Born from an experiment between The Courtyard Dairy and three dales cheesemakers, Yoredale is made from a centuries old Wensleydale recipe. Rather than the insipid, dry crumb we've come to expect, this is Wensleydale as it used to be; moist, flaky and full of bright and clean lactic flavours.
Deep, dark flavours work best here; a Malbec or Medoc Bordeaux or that special bottle of LBV you've been saving! Simple accompaniments work nicely; try Red Onion Marmalade or a drop of Morello Cherry Jam to bring a little fruity sweetness.
Cows, pasturised, traditional rennet, Bungay, Suffolk.
We may not quite be sure how to pronounce the name (BIgod? BiGOD?) but when a cheese tastes this good, who cares? The milk for this exceptional brie comes from a herd of imported Montbeliard Cattle, the same breed used to make Brie de Meaux. That heritage shines through, with a cheese that would give the French a run for their money.
Ultra rich, with the creaminess of the perfectly broken down paste contrasting with the more toothsome bite and earthy notes of the rind. A little cabbagey flavour sometimes adds a slightly funky edge, but never dominating the balance of this superb cheese.
Like the French Brie de Meaux, a bit of fizz is great here, but go British with Langham's Culver Classic. Steer clear of heavily spiced accompaniments, simplicity is key so try a little Damson fruit for Cheese.
Cows, raw, traditional rennet, Welbeck, Nottinghamshire.
In the early 1990s, the last Stilton producer using raw milk switched to pasturised - greater consistency and more predictable results were vital to the success of the dairy, at a time when British cheese was very much out of favour. Some years later, Randolph Hodgson (of Neal's Yard fame) and Joe Schneider set about reviving the tradition of a raw milk version, eventually creating Stichelton.
Deeper and more savoury than Stilton, with a pronounced change in flavours across the breadth of the cheese - a little more funky acidity close to the rind and a saltier tang in and around the veining.
Something bold is needed to balance the big flavours of this stunning blue - sloe gin is a surprisingly good match! The slightly sticky-sweet flavours of Pear & Walnut Chutney bring out the sweetness of the cheese nicely.
Cow's, pasturised, vegetarian, Truro, Cornwall.
Created to keep the Lynher Cheesemakers busy in what was the 'quiet' season, Kern is made with Alpine cultures but with a high temperature scalding, similar to Gouda. The long maturation - up to 24 months - allowed the dairy to keep production levels up when the seasonal demand for the younger nettle-wrapped Yarg (their signature cheese) dropped off, along with the tourists!
Hard, but very smooth on the palate, Kern has a wonderful mix of sweetness from the Alpine starter, burnt caramel from the high temperature scalding and the uniquely barnyard, butteriness of Westcountry cheeses. It's unsurprising that it took home Supreme Champion at the World Cheese Awards the year it was released!
A light red works well, hunt out a silky, velvety Fleurie; or go old school retro with a young, unoaked chardonnay. Kern is bold enough to accompany some big flavours, try Extraordinary Pickle or classic Apple & Cider Chutney.