26 Jun 2013

A night of cheese and wine at Sam's Chop House, Leeds

Wine, cheese, good company, a nice restaurant - you can't go far wrong can you?

George Bergier

This was a great night made memorable by the brilliant George Bergier, sommelier at Sam's Chop House and its sister restaurants who gave a masterclass in the art of sommeliering (I'd like to think that's a word). He presented various wines to match the cheeses, constantly nipping out and coming back with a different bottle for us all to try, his generosity and knowledge carried so lightly yet flowing round the table so easily.

For some unknown reason I don't have a photo of the first cheese, though that's probably because it was quickly scoffed. It was a burrata, which is like a super-rich mozzarella made with double cream and it can be eaten sweet or savoury, a bit like mascarpone. It's like a very creamy yogurt, the kind of thing where less is probably more, pretty irresistible really. If you think of the unctuous and creaminess implied in those comically suggestive Danone adverts, and then add a bit, you're in the right ball park. It went very nicely with the lemony, maybe even honey-tinged Le Coste trebbiano.

La Croix Belle 2011

The Old Amsterdam cheese was next, my first thought being it was a kind of gouda/parmesan hybrid. Which is certainly a good thing for me. It seemed packed full of those savoury, umami type flavours you get from parmesan and perhaps a bit of caramel in there too, with George pointing out there was also a pineappley note to the smell. With La Croix Belle chardonnay this was a great match, and it also mingled nicely as an alternative with some good bordeaux - Chateau Bonnet 2008.

Some Swedish cheddar next, if that's not a contradiction. Vasterbottensost came with a legend about a milk maid getting distracted by a man and forgetting to stir the curd - I've heard similar stories about beers where brewers forgot to add hops and whacked a load in at the end - and whether or not it's true that that's how it was invented, either way I'm glad it was. It's a salty, gravelly iceberg of a cheese and it was paired with the aromatic Torres Esmeralda and the Berri Shiraz.

Epoisses. Wow, epoisses. How good is this stuff. The kind of cheese that sags and oozes into the cheeseboard as it sweats at room temperature, easing out its almost animal smell. As is probably often the case its taste isn't as strong as its smell; mellow to begin with in the mouth, slowly building to a crescendo with whatever wine you stick in there with it.
 The epoisses was amazing with the dessert wines George brought out - the Chateau du Seuil 2009, which I loved, and the Royal Tokaji 2007 which, well, I loved too. The French wine smelt clean and lemony and soft in the mouth with flavours of apricot, herbs and lime that went on and on. At least that's what my notes say. And the Tokaji was a dream match, an amazing aroma, old floorboards with a story to tell, but a fresh juiciness on the palate. Amazing.

I'm always a fan of gorgonzola and we had a picante version on the night which I really enjoyed; it had a faintly spicy, nutty note on the tongue.

Another highlight of the night for me was trying the Moon River pinot noir from Hungary - which had a really natural smell to it, if that doesn't sound daft - roses, undergrowth, that kind of thing. A wine of character. In that way it reminded me of the Mas Coutelou wines I've tried. There were little strips of sediment in the bottom of the glass.

I also enjoyed the fresh berry flavours of this sangiovese, one of the bottles George left for us to finish off at the end, rounding off what was a great night.

In the interests of disclosure, I was invited to this event by the people promoting Old Amsterdam and went away with a generous cheesy goodie bag. Which was very much a bonus as I thoroughly enjoyed the cheeses anyway.

At the event I also enjoyed the great company of Breadsticklers, Littleblondlife and Yorkshire Pudd.

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