Tis the season of Extra Special Indulgence: Festive Cheese and Wine

The thing that makes it really Christmas for me,  is not the turkey, the tree or even the presents, it's the cheese! 

The 2014 Taste London Winter festival at Tobacco Docks, celebrated fabulous cuisine with food stands from the Capital's finest restaurants,  as well as showcasing festive food and drink. 

And there was nowhere more festive at Taste London, than the Alpine lodge that was home to Asda's Kitchen demonstrations and tastings.  Asda had invited me to Taste London, to check out their Extra Special Range -  which I can happily report includes some seriously good cheese. 

When you think of luxury fare, Asda doesn't spring to mind but the supermarket chain has been collaborating with the world renowned Leiths School of Food and Wine, for the past three years.  And as they demonstrated at Taste London, they've pulled out all the stops to satisfy foodies this Christmas. 


Visitors were treated to a cheese and wine matching demonstration from Blur bassist turned cheese maker Alex James and Asda's highly knowledgable Master of Wine, Philippa Carr.

Alex was full of insights into the cheese world.  For example did you know the word fromage in French, actually only refers to Camembert?   Along with Emmental (medium hard cows' milk cheese originally from Switzerland and best known for its holey appearance) Camembert is one of the two most popular cheeses in France?  Similarly queso in Spain generally refers only to Manchego -   (hard, nutty and sweet cheese made from sheep's milk) 

While we soaked up these trivia titbits,  the 45-year-old former rock star also cooked and served up his deliciously rich Welsh rarebit -  125g grated cheddar (more if you fancy!) 15ml of cream, two egg yolks, a tablespoon of mustard and a good splash of beer poured over slices of stale bread, placed under the grill until bubbling hot, garnished with spring onions. 

 Wykee Farms Mature Cheddar Cheese will ensure this dish is suitably indulgent but Welsh Rarebit is a fabulous way of using up any hard cheeses leftover from your festive cheeseboard (if that's possible)  

For this decadent cheese on toast, Whitechapel Porter Premium Ale (£1.75) was recommended as a good drink match. And for wine lovers,  Philippa had suggestions on how to imbibe in true christmassy style. 

Asda's Chianti Classico Riserva 2009 (£7.50) was my stand out favourite wine of the evening and it was delicious with French Brie de Bays - part of the the Extra Special Christmas Mixed Selection cheese board alongside Manchego, Stilton Wedge and Wyke Farms Mature Cheddar (£10)

A glass of Tawny Port (£7.00) of course, was also fabulous with the cheeseboard. 

For people who prefer a white wine with their cheese and biscuits, Pouilly Fume 2012 (£9.00) was very nice - particularly enhancing rather than overpowering Asda's Creamy Wensleydale with Christmas fruit. 

I absolutely loved the buttery Extra Special Comté cheese (200g, £3) From France’s Jura Mountains, and similar to Gruyère,  Comté is a hard, slightly fruity flavoured cheese and matured for 15 months.  This cheese (which is also great melted) is perfect with Amontillado Medium Dry Sherry (£7.00) 

As well as being a good cheese pairing,  Old Vine Garnacha Spanish Red 2011 (£5) was recommended as a fab match with lamb and beef dishes.

For more info on Asda's festive food and drink selection visit Asda.com 

Hope you have a very merry (and cheesy) one!

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