Matching port with cheese

 A few perfect pairings of sweet Port wine and terrific cheeses for your Christmas celebrations.

Matching port with cheese

One of life’s true pleasures is enjoying a wine that has been carefully matched with a cheese. It’s a sophisticated and composed affair which is why it’s so appropriate for Christmas Day. After the mayhem of lunch is over, relax with a sweet port and enjoy some truly spectacular cheese. It’s just the ticket to calm the nerves.


  • Most people recall port as something that was drank by their Gran, perhaps with lemonade. Maybe it’s that wired ice-lolly flavour that always remained after all the others had been eaten. But port can be much more enjoyable.

  • The first thing you need to know is that port, as you would expect, comes from Portugal. It’s a fortified wine which means it’s stronger and sweeter than regular wine. Port wines also come in three basic colour categories: white, ruby and tawny. Tawny port is made from red grapes that have been aged in wooden casks where it looses some of the strong red colouring. Tawny is usual nutty in taste and slightly more viscous due to the amount lost though evaporation.

  • Port wines go well with cheese as the sweet wine matches and counter balances the saltiness of the cheese. The good news is you don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy a decent Port and cheese combination. There are some very good combinations that you can find in most supermarkets on the high street.

  • One such find is Cockburn’s Light Dry White Port. For the recommended price of £7.49 you get a “sweet fruit” white port with a “light citrus finish.” Try matching it with Paxton and Whitfield’s firm and creamy Welsh Gorwydd Caerphilly. This particular Port would also be well-matched to a hard salty cheese such as Manchego from Spain.

  • Moving swiftly onto the rubies, The Cockburn’s Special Reserve with its clean plumy aroma and smooth finish is ideal matched with English St Eadburgha cheese or a strong ripe brie. The Cockburn’s Special Reserve retails at £9.96

  • Taylor’s is another Port brand that is easily found on the high street. The Late Bottled Vintage Port 2003  (£12.99) is a “big, gutsty Port with lots of prune and chocolate flavours.” Try matching it with Mrs Kirkham's Lancershire. Made with unpasteurised milk it’s a “fresh, full tasting, crumbly cheese” that is perfect for Welsh Rarebit.

  • Compare this against Cockburn’s Late Bottled Vintage from the same year which retails at £10.98. This deep red tipple again is fruity but with “blackcurrant notes” and “cherry and dark chocolate” flavours. Cockburn have paired it with a Paxton and Whitfield classic Picos blue cheese this time, venturing as far as the Asturian Mountains in Spain. This is a mature and powerful cheese as blues should be. Don’t be shy.

  • To the tawny Ports now with their smooth luxurious mouthfeel and nutty flavour. Taylor’s 10 Year Old Twany is widely available for £18.99 with delicious “squashy fruit aromas of Christmas cake” and this one can be served chilled. Taylor’s have matched their 10 Year Old Tawny with Paxton and Whitfield’s award winning Hampshire Tunworth cheese. Tunworth is a soft new Camembert style cheese with a “rich and sweet with a hint of the mushroomy notes.”

  • Cockburn’s 10 Year Old Twany is a medium tawny-coloured port with a “rich complexity of sweetness and acidity.” It has been matched with the milky nutty flavours of Tomme de Savoie,  a semi-hard pressed cheese. It could equally be matched with a delicate Camembert or creamy blue Cambozola. Cockburn’s 10 Year Old Twany is £12.87.

  • Finally, for something really special, try Taylor’s Quinta de Vargellas Vintage Port 2001 (£24.99). As the name implies this Port is from a single vineyard on Portugal’s the northern boarder with Spain. This Port needs to be decanted due to the sediment but it’s a process that doesn’t take long and gives you the opportunity to use some lovely glassware (or just pop it back in the bottle). It has a “fine elegant and silky” texture and a long finish with aromas of violets and bramble. This special Port is great paired with a special cheese, Blue Monday from Scotland. Made with vegetarian rennet this blue cheese is a site to behold on any cheese board. It has an amazing soft creamy texture unlike many blue cheeses. It’s steely and sweet with a hint of spicy. Perfect for cheese lovers.