Huzzah! It's National Stilton Week!
For me that means only one thing: going out to find the creamiest, saltiest, yummiest stilton on the market, cracking open a cheeky bottle to go with it, and indulging until I get the cheese sweats.
What goes with stilton? Well, forget the usual cheesy culprits - stilton is in a class of its own and most bottles that say 'a perfect match for cheese' on the label will whimper and retreat at the sight of this blue menace. Nearly all red wines simply won't come up the scratch - they're too dry, and too tannic (grippy).
What you need to do is match salty with sweet, and creamy with smooth.
The Exception that Proves the Rule
According to wine buyer and wine GOD Marcel Orford-Williams, a young, gutsy, fruity red might just work (less powerful tannins and the fruit acts as a sweetener) and Marcillac fits the bill quite nicely. It's not a name you see very often, but Domaine Cros is king of this wine and Slurp do a nice bottle for £11.90.
The absolute classic match is Sauternes, but they can be pricey little buggers. A half-bottle from Asda of some fairly tasty but not exactly top of the market stuff is £10.07, but as usual I am being all sneaky and cunning: Saint Croix du Mont is an appellation right next to Sauternes that makes similar wines without the hefty price tag. Cambridge Wine do a brilliant example - a whole bottle for £11.99 and enough left over to enjoy with various puddings (it'll keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks.)
The other classic match is port - I used to wrinkly my nose at the thought of it, but with food like this port is an absolute smasher. Taylor's are one of the A-listers and Majestic do a cracking 2005 version for £13.99 - it's a treat.
You can also go with decent aged Amontillado - rich and sweet without being cloying, it stands up well to stilton's strong flavours. Sainsbury's Taste The Difference Amontillado is twelve years old and - unless you're a sherry snob - should fit the bill nicely, which is pretty cool for £7.99.
Lastly, but very much not least, is Madeira. Yes, I know, my elderly relatives drink it too, but that doesn't mean it isn't awesome. Henriques & Henriques are one of the best names in the business and the discovery of their 10 year old Malmsey made my Christmas a couple of years back. Majestic do a 50cl bottle for £16.99 and once opened you don't have to worry about drinking it all up quickly: it would quite possibly outlive hamsters.
If you want to veer away from tradition altogether, The Wine Society has a couple of wildcards. They like to give smaller producers a chance, and in doing so they bring us Samos Anthemis from Greece for £6.95 per half and Bleasdale's Wise Old Tawny from Australia for £10.50. Both are rich dessert wines - decadently smooth, full of flavour and sticky-sweet. Your slab of stilton will love it, and I reckon you will too.
Will you be indulging in some stilton this week, and if so: how do you eat yours? Let's talk all things cheesy in the comments, or on Twitter and Facebook.
Photo taken from Keith Williamson's photostream under the Creative Commons License