New World Wine & Old World Cheese

Expert interview with Claudia McIntosh – Cheesemonger

Claudia McIntosh is a cheese monger. You might picture a stout old man in a brown leather apron, but the stunning young Australian woman who has dedicated her life’s work to cheese, is far from that old stereotype.

Claudia runs a variety of cheese events in Australia and increasingly, worldwide. The emphasis is on fun and really giving everyone an insight into the joys of cheese.  Among the many affiliations Claudia has worldwide, she has been invited to the Supreme Panel of International Judges at this year’s World Cheese Awards in Birmingham from the 27th of November to 1st of December 2013.

Cellar Maison asked Claudia for some advice and a fun overview about how to match New-World wines with Old-World cheeses. We’ve decided to take a selection of key New Zealand and Australian wine varieties and pair them with Claudia’s choice of cheeses from France and Italy and the UK.


All the cheeses are readily available in the UK so select your favourite Kiwi and Aussie drops and have a taste! This would be an ideal theme for a home wine cellar tasting too.


CM – Claudia, we’d love to know a bit more about how to match the wines we’ve been enjoying from New Zealand and Australia, with cheese that we know and love over here in the UK. What are your thoughts on this?


Claudia – Up until recently, where it has now been agreed the USA (states such as New York Sate, Wisconsin and California) is the most progressive artisan cheese producing nation in the world, it was indeed the UK that was considered to be at the forefront of dairy excitement. My time working for establishments such as Neal’s yard Dairy in Covent Garden and Borough Markets had me become intimately familiar with and confident in the supreme quality of English Farmhouse Classics like Ragstone, Montgommery’s, Quickes and Wigmore, Ogleshield, Harbourne Blue and Tunworth.


I have every confidence that where England is positioned now as a world cheese making talent, is where we too will arrive once our population develops greater respect for the dairy industry and products in general and most significantly our legislation regarding raw milk has been relaxed and our cheese makers can follow in the footsteps of our more adventurous, experimental fellow British cheese making comrades and will match the superiority status and international fame of our classic wines.


CM – Here is a selection of wine varietals we’re drinking over here in the UK and getting to know. What would you suggest as an ‘old-world’ winner cheese match for each?


Claudia –




Sauvignon Blanc:  UK Cheeses: Goat milk cheese like Dorstone, Ragstone, Tymsborough, Tunworth, St Jude


Gewurztraminer:   UK Washed rinds like… Cardo, St James, Stinking bishop and Ogleshieldand blue cheeses and from Ireland my favourites would include Ardrahan and Milleens. Frensh washed rind options would include Munster and Epoisses. Blues like Strathdon blue or Harbourne.


Pinot Noir:  Tymsboro, Old Ford, Gorwydd Caerphilly, Cornish Yarg


Merlot: Cornish Yarg, Sparkenhoe Red Leicestershire, Hawes Wensleydale


Botrytised Riesling:


UK cheeses: blues like – Beenleigh blue, Harbourne Blue, Shropshire Blue, Colston Basset Stilton, Stichelton and washed rinds like… Ogleshield and Stinking Bishop




Semillon: Waterloo, Ogleshield, Berkswell, Spenwood, Tunworth, St Jude


Chardonnay: Old Ford, Cornish Yarg or Berkswell, Tunworth, Waterloo


Shiraz: Sparkenhoe Red Leicestershire, Montgommery’s Cheddar, Isle of Mull Cheddar, Quickes Cheddar


Cabernet Sauvignon:  Montgommery’s Cheddar, Isle of Mull Cheddar, Quickes Cheddar


Grenache:  Kirkhams Lancashire, Berkswell, Spenwood, Lincolnshire Poacher


CM – Are there any general rules to matching wine with cheese?


Claudia – Wine matching is very much an individual preference. One thing that is clear is that different grape varietals and wine styles will impact differently on milk types and cheese styles and ultimately compliment or contrast different characteristics in the cheese. Personal preference will play a large part in how each combination will be received by the individual. True to this point I find that classic combinations such as a blue cheese with a big heavy red wine will polarise a group of people in a masterclass. Some people greatly enjoy it whilst others feel like its somewhat of a train wreck in the mouth the clashing of tannins and penicillin and salt.


Whilst wine is perhaps be the more romantic pairing with cheese, in actual fact it is beer and Champagne that are widely considered a better or more correct pairing, in terms of having a similar science, history and origin to cheese and in that they are not competing with the cheese as is so often experienced by the acidity of a wine as it dominates and thus suppresses the palate.


Like and Like:


Truth be told, I am not a big fan of pairing ‘rules’ but I do concede that there is a relationship between produce that has been made/matured in the same region for not just hundreds but sometimes thousands of years. No so much a rule….. call it co-incidence if you want… but generally wines and cheese from the same region match well. Take chianti and parmesan, take the Region of Champagne Ardennes- you have champagne that matches really well with a variety of the soft, creamy, luxurious velvety textured local cheeses that coat the palate with cream so the effervescence of the champagne can cut through and lift the palate creating a most enjoyable, highly addictive textural contrast and sensation. Lovers of the Alsatian region in France will wax lyrical about the sublime combination of Munster cheese and Gewvurtstraminer. Traditional English cloth bound cheddars and old English Ale….




Hard cheeses do well on flat bread or lavosh or crackers whilst the creamier, softer cheeses done better justice by a more substantial ‘vehicle’ such as fleshy, hearty sourdough bread that will envelop the cheese in its molten state.




When matching cheese with beverages you are looking to not only match or contrast flavours but textures as well. You could op for the pungent and savoury washed rind cliche paired with a sweet, viscous dessert wine whose sugar will calm the more challenging and dominant aspects of that washed rind. Or you could go for the textural contrast of a cream enhanced, bloomy rinded cheese with a decadent, luxurious, velvety, creamy mouthfeel with a sparkling wine or Ale for that effervescence effect that will clear the cream and provide a great lift to your palate. A big dominant, long lasting mouthfeel of a traditional English style of cloth bound cheddar such as The Cabot’s cloth will stand up to the heavy bodied Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon or perhaps  peaty, smokey characteristics of an Islay singlemalts such as Ardbeg or Laphroig. Options are endless.


Crispy, hydrating apple or pear will nearly always provide an earth shattering textural contrast and addictive combination to a creamy, heavy, rich, soft cheese like a Camembert or triple cream cheese or blue.


CM – Do you have a couple of favourite wines from Down Under that you’re currently enjoying?


Claudia – I have fallen in love with the Bellwether wines by outstanding, award winning, indigenous, female wine maker Sue Bell. Her wines are the one to watch if you ask me, particularly her:


2006 2008, 2009 Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon


2012 Wrattonbully Shiraz/Malbec


2009 Tasmanian Tamar Valley Chardonnay


2012 Heathcote Vermentino


Most sincere thanks from Cellar Maison to Claudia for her incredible time and energy. Her expertise is staggering – please do let us know how you go with tracking down and pairing some of these fabulous recommendations – we’d love to hear from you!