We were pleased to once again be able to host our annual cheese and Port evening, pairing a range of Fonseca Ports with some of Paxton & Whitfield’s finest cheeses. The tasting was hosted at Mentzendorff Offices by Amanda Lloyd from Fonseca Port and Hero Hirsh from Paxton & Whitfield. All of the Paxton & Whitfield cheeses shown on the evening are new to the counter, with a controversial decision taken by Hero not to show anything blue! Here’s how we got on…

Guests were welcomed with the newly released Taylor’s Chip Dry and Croft Pink RTD Portonics before sitting down to the first pairing.

The evening began with the Fonseca Siroco White Port, often served with tonic as a summers drink, but also delicious just served chilled on its own. Named after the warm wind which blows over the Mediterranean from North Africa, it is made from white Port grape varieties grown on the cooler, higher vineyards of the Douro Valley. This was paired with the Lypiatt, a delicious British cheese so new that it was created during lockdown. More resemblant of a goat’s cheese at first glance, it is actually made with milk from Channel Island cows and is handmade for Paxton & Whitfield by renowned cheesemaker Julianna Sedli.

Next was the iconic Fonseca Bin 27, launched nearly 50 years ago and still blended from selected reserve Ports chosen for their smooth, round, full-bodied palate, and their fine, intense fruit character. The velvety texture of this Port paired perfectly with a Manchego Villajero from the Cuenca region in the centre of Spain. This is a bold and rich cheese that has real juiciness and supple texture with notes of blanched almonds and roasted hazelnuts.

In 2002 it became possible for the first time to produce a Port made entirely from grapes derived from certified organic viticulture, and Fonseca was one of the pioneers of this with the Fonseca Terra Prima. The intense berry, plum and cherry flavours in this reserve Port were delicious with the sweet, milky, creaminess of the Cremoso, which made up our third pairing. This ewes’ milk cheese from Spain is a cross between a ‘torta’ style cheese (one using a cardoon thistle rennet as opposed to the usual animal rennet) and a bloomy rinded cheese such as a Camembert. Not to mention the added childish enjoyment of scooping the soft, gooey centre out with a spoon!

Paxton’s own 10-Year-Old Tawny, made for them by The Fladgate Partnership, is aged for ten 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 Schnebelhorn, a delightfully named cheese so-called thanks to the highest peak in the region from which it hails, Saint Gallen, near Zurich, Switzerland. Schnebelhorn is made with milk from cattle grazing exclusively on high-altitude pastures and with added cream, creating an intensely rich and delicious texture with a fantastic full flavour.

Our penultimate pairing introduced the Fonseca Guimaraens 2004. Blended from slightly less powerful components than classic Vintage Ports, Guimaraens Vintage Ports are made in years when the wines are more supple and early maturing, therefore are more approachable, ready to drink earlier, and offer exceptional value. The dark berry fruit flavours of this Port are married to the Ashcombe, a delicious Morbier-style cheese with a sweet nuttiness and a satisfying, toothsome texture. With a striking line of wood ash running through its centre, this cheese is a true celebrity taking home five separate awards at the 2021 Melton Artisan Cheese Fair and named “Overall Supreme Champion” – what a treat!

Finally, we enjoyed a glass of Paxton’s Vintage 2000. The wine, which was double decanted, has a great depth of flavour and a particularly good structure allowing it to be laid down for another ten years. This was paired with the award-winning Old Groendal (or OG Kristal as our more extravagant American cousins like to call it!) described by Paxton’s cheese buyer as “brimming with butterscotch notes and an utterly addictive crystalline texture”. This gouda style cheese is full-bodied and mature, made from Belgian cows’ milk from a single farm that has been making cheese for two generations.

A big thank you to Amanda and Hero for presenting on the night and to everyone who joined us. What delicious pairings they were!