I faced an event last night with some trepidation, anxiety even. Steph and I attended a wine and cheese tasting at the Newcastle Wine School (NWS) in the city center. Since moving up to the northeast 21 months ago, we have not traveled into the city center at all. In fact we’ve only been on the Tyne and Wear Metro twice even though we have concessionary travel passes upgraded (for a small fee) to Gold Cards for free travel.
Why? Covid, of course. And despite government protestations to the contrary, the pandemic ain’t over yet. So we remain cautious. We are triple-jabbed, but I’m sure that whatever immunity we acquired more than a year ago has already begun to wane. We do get out and about, mostly to places where we can walk in the fresh air, and have, until now, avoided mixing with crowds. Having said that, we do a weekly shop at the local supermarket, but always masked. Indeed, we wear masks wherever and whenever we expect to meet crowds.
So we were faced somewhat with a dilemma yesterday. How do you go to a wine and cheese tasting event masked up? Simple answer: you don’t.
The NWS is located at Blackfriars (a 13th century friary) on Friars Street, close to Central Station.
The event was a 2021 Christmas gift from our daughters and their families. So, despite any reservations we might have had, we hopped on the Metro close to home (just under 10 minutes) for the 20 minute and eleven stations ride into the city. The train was quite empty for the most part, until we reached Jesmond where the Metro truly becomes an underground operation. We saw only one other masked passenger.
From Central Station, it was less than a 10 minutes to the venue, located in meeting rooms above the Blackfriars restaurant. We didn’t know quite what to expect, and having arrived a little before the 7 pm start time, we whiled away the time in the restaurant bar. Just a glass of water for both of us.
There were just nine couples (full house) attending the wine and cheese, and we found a table over on one side where there was a little more space from the other attendees.
Our tutor for the evening was Alex Lomas who briefly explained the rudiments of tasting both wine and cheese, and how to successfully match them. But the bottom line: it all depends on personal preference.
And without further ado, we got down to enjoying what Alex had prepared for us.
We had seven wines to taste (retailing from £10.50 to £15.50), each matched with a different cheese. In front of each participant was a table mat, with six ‘numbered’ glasses. And a plate of cheese each.
There were two white wines (English and Alsace), a Rhône Tavel rosé (French), an Argentinian Malbec, two ports (white and tawny), and a dessert wine (Sauternes). Just click on the image on the right to read descriptions of the wines and the cheeses they had been matched with.
As we tasted the first white, from Cornwall of all places, I remarked to Steph that it tasted like summer in a glass: light and fruity, quite dry, similar to a Sauvignon Blanc. The other white was a ‘heavier’ Gewurztraminer from Alsace. More like autumn in a glass.
In between we’d tried a Tavel rosé, full of strawberries. Unlike many, we really enjoy rosé wines. Apparently all wines with the Tavel appellation are rosé.
The white port was an eye-opener for me, never having tasted this before. It was delicious, and matched with a wine Derby cheese. The other tawny port, a fuller, richer taste (lots of raisins and nuts) was matched with a mature Cheddar, full of crunchy salt crystals.
In between the ports, we enjoyed a soft Malbec from the foothills of the Andes in Mendoza, Argentina. Malbec has certainly taken off in popularity, and I have to say it’s one of my favorites. It was matched with a salty Gouda.
And finally, we all enjoyed a glass of sweet Sauternes or ‘noble’ botrytis wine, which had been matched with a Stilton. Quite unexpected but what a perfect combination.
Now, much as I prefer red wines overall, and the Malbec was delicious, the find for me at this tasting was the Graham’s Fine White Port. It was the Alsatian wine for Steph. And the cheese? Butler’s Handmade semi-hard Lincolnshire goat cheese.
All too soon, the allotted two hours had flown by, and we were making our way back to the Metro, catching a train around 9:30 pm.
We were home by 10 pm. It was a really excellent evening, and by then, all anxiety had disappeared. Let’s hope there were no Covid carriers in the room last night.
Thank you to Hannah and Philippa, Michael and Andi – and the grandchildren. Celebrating Christmas in June.