Paxton & Whitfield and Taylor’s Port recently held an event at Paxton’s headquarters to offer some guidance on those all-important Port and cheese purchases for the festive season. Paxton & Whitfield first opened their shop in 1797 and now have five. They stock 150 mostly British cheeses. Taylor’s in contrast has only been around since 1692 and are one of the founding Port houses. The shop on Jermyn St is stocked with a fabulous range of dairy delights. The tasting was hosted by Amanda Lloyd from Taylor’s Port alongside cheesemonger, Danielle Bliss, from Paxton & Whitfield.

The evening began with a glass of Taylor’s Chip Dry White Port, often served with tonic as an aperitif it is a fantastic, refreshing summer’s drink but it is also delicious on the rocks. It was beautifully matched with an unpasteurised French goat’s cheese called Valencay. With a salted charcoal ash exterior, the creamy cheese has a real tang and the Port brings out its citrus notes.

We then moved on to Chaource, an unpasteurised and intensely creamy cow’s milk cheese made in Champagne. Made with double cream the cheese has a delicate mushroom flavour and a fluffy white rind. Paired with Taylor’s Late Bottled Vintage 2013 the cheese contrasted beautifully with the black cherry notes of the Port. LBV Ports have been aged in large wooden casks for 4-6 years and will stay good in the bottle for several weeks after opening.

Paxton’s own 10 Year Old Tawny made for them by Taylor’s; aged for 10 years in small wooden casks and made to be drunk right away it has delicious flavours of raisin and dried figs with a slight hint of wood from the barrels. It was paired with the rind-washed Tete de Moine (monk’s head) from the Jura. The cheese is sliced using a ‘Girolle’ slicer that creates attractive rosettes which in Switzerland are served as an aperitif. It has a dry, savoury taste enlivened by the Port’s natural sweetness.

Our fourth cheese was a Mimolette, a nutty umami-flavoured pasteurized hard cheese made with vegetarian rennet from near Lille in the north of France. It’s both salty and sweet and has tremendous history as it was created as a replacement for Gouda when the French were about to go to war with the Dutch. For a perfect Xmas pairing it was matched with Taylor’s Historical Collection Reserve Tawny which comes in an attractive display box and is bursting with seasonal fruit cake flavours.

Taylor’s 30 Year Old Tawny is a top of the range product with flavours to match. It’s a subtle blend of caramel, dried fruits, and nuts with a finish that goes on forever. Its cheese companion was an Aged Gouda from Holland, a more mature and richly flavoured take on the popular hard cheese.

Paxton’s Vintage 2000 is another of the in-house Port blends. It has a great depth of flavour and a particularly good structure allowing it to be laid down for another 10 years. It is the Port of choice to go with Paxton’s Stilton but we were trying it with Stichelton, the unpasteurised cheese with traditional rennet that tastes like Stilton used to before it was made with pasteurised milk. It was fantastic combination with the creamy acidity of the cheese being perfectly complemented by the fruitiness of the Port.

Our final pairing brought together a powerful salty and tangy raw milk Roquefort with Taylor’s Quinta De Vargellas 2004. This is an elegant single estate Port with notes of plum, violets and cherries coming through.