Matching cheese with bubbles and sake. Sake? Who would have thought?

Penny Lawson knows her cheeses. She’s worked with cheesemakers, cheesemongers and now runs the Danks Street Cheese Affineurs at Danks Street Produce Merchants. It being the bubbly season (when isn’t it?), we asked her for cheese and bubbles matches. She delivered big time. And then some.

“When we think of Champagne we think of brioche and we love that yeasted flavour that comes with Champagne because of the Methode Champenoise.

I reckon sparkling white wine is a natural bedfellow with cheese. For example, I've got a beautiful Italian mixed milk cheese, a Robiola style (an Italian soft-ripened cheese) called La Tur and it’s got a yeasted rind. Perfect.

The other thing is that bubbles lift the palate, so you've got alchemy happening in the mouth with the matching of that cheese and champagne.

If you’ve got a champagne that’s a little heavier and nuttier with more toasty flavours coming through, like a demi sec or a vintage, you’d be going for an Alpine style cheese like the Comte or an aged Gruyere where you're getting lovely beef stocky rich flavours.

Beaufort is beautiful with champagne, a natural match.

And I've got a Comte here which is affinaged (matured) by an affineur called Mons matured in his tunnels just outside Lyon for 18 months. Lovely long flavoured, raw milk with length on the palate.

But let’s move on to something alittle unusual. I was matching beverages and cheeses with a friend recently and there’s a lovely milkiness and sweetness that you find in some sakes that matches beautifully with fermented milk products like cheese.

So I’ve brought out a British cheese from Cornwall. It’s called Cornish Yarg (named for the cheese maker whose last name is Gray). It feels like a traditional cheese but it's modern. When you look at it you can see its wrapped in nettles. Its kind if like a Caerphilly, with a light-flavoured milkinesswhich leads us into matchinga beverage that not many people would think goes with cheese: sake.

I love looking into these unusual matches. So I’ve also brought out the Milawa goat milk Camembert from North East Victoria, and that goes beautifully with Sake too. I was at Rootstock recently, and I had asake later on in the night (that’s why I can't remember its name!) butit had a wonderful 'goatiness' to it. It wasn't that it tasted like goat's milk but I knew instinctively that it would go with the Milawa goat camembert.

Think outside the box when you're doing cheese matching. You don't need to go like with like.  You could be matching Whiskey or Sake or Beer.

I threw another bubbly wine at Penny. Sparkling Shiraz, an Australian invention and one of my favourites with it’s spicy flavours and slightly tarry finish. She didn’t miss a beat.

I’d be looking at a new cheese maker in South Australia in the Adelaide Hills, Kym Masters. He's making a Section 28 Monforte (you can see Section 28 embossed on the rind, very sexy). He's one of the only Australians making Alpine style cheeses, traditional cooked curd cheeses made in the mountains. There's a spiciness in the cheese and a sweetness with the wine. They go well together.

Thank you Penny. Cheese for thought.

All these cheeses and Penny can be found at the Danks Street Cheese Affineur in the Produce Merchants. Ask her anything you like about cheese.