Wine and Cheese Tasting Experience with Tasting with Nivard
There isn't much I miss from pre-lockdown London, but a good wine and cheese tasting event is definitely one of them. I can't even tell you how excited I was when I found this amazing wine and cheese pairing class provided by Tasting with Nivard!
Since London is still in lockdown, obviously the tasting was held virtually. Two days prior the event, 3 vials of wine and 6 different kinds of cheese have been delivered to me. There were one red, one white, and one rosé wine, all of very generous amount (100 ml each). All the cheeses were numbered to ensure we know which is what during the event. Alongside with the wine and cheese, there was an envelop containing all the information and worksheets for the tasting , including a blank piece of paper that acted as a white background for studying the colour of the wine. The package in general is very well thought out and well designed.
On the day of the event, we all received a text message roughly an hour before the actual tasting, reminding us to take the cheese out of the fridge, allowing them to warm up to their optimal tasting temperature. It was a sweet and much needed reminder. I appreciated the fact that Geoffrey Nivard, the cheese and wine connoisseur who's hosting the tasting, paid attention to every single details, ensuring we all enjoy the experience to its fullest extend.
For those who has been following me in social media, you may have notice I live with two very fluffy cats. As I was unwrapping the cheese, the amazing aroma has attracted both of my cats to sit next to me, looking at my with desire in their eyes! That's how nice the cheese was. Believe it or not, the cats know what's the good stuff.
The tasting event started on time at 7pm on a Saturday evening. Geoffrey first introduced himself to all of us, and we learnt about where he came from and his background, as well as what we were to expect from him that evening. For starters, we received a short lecture on how to properly study a glass of wine - the swirling, the smelling and the tasting. This was where the blank piece of paper came in handy as it acted as a plain white background for observing the colour of the wine. In the kit there was also a card explaining all the aromas you can get out of a wine. This made the sharing and discussion session of the tasting a lot more approachable. Even if I was a total beginner, because Geoffrey started with the basics and did not expect any prior experience; plus the amount of information we got from the tasting kit, I can still discuss with the rest of the group with little knowledge barrier. Just before we dug into the first wine, we were also educated on how to properly cut a chunk of cheese based on their shape, which was also an important skill I learnt from this course.
After the mini lecture, we finally got to crack open the first wine. Another feature I love about these wines is that there is a near-field communication (NFC) label on each of the vials. With the NFC reader app on our phones, we could read up on the details of the wine. There is a lot of information available on the website, such as the optimal drinking temperature of the wine, the vineyard, the vintage, alcohol level etc. There is even information on the winemaker and suggested food pairing. It certainly was a cool feature. We started the tasting with the rosé, a 2018 vintage from Côtes de Provence. As you may already know, this region in France is most well known for their rosé and this one was a classic one with notes like ripe strawberries, exotic lychee, and a fresh bouquet of white blossom. That was one amazing glass of rosé. As much as the wine was amazing, this tasting event is about the wine and cheese pairing and not just the wine. The wine was great, what about the cheese? The cheese was just as amazing! Our first cheese was a soft, creamy goat cheese from Poitou-Charente. It's fresh and light, almost grassy tasting. On its own it was a little too light for my preference but it did in fact pair very well with the rosé.
Just before we move on to the next wine, we had another lecture on how cheese was made. It might sound like common sense, but Geoffrey taught us a lot more than just what's being told in your high school science class. For example, he explained the difference between summer and winter cheese, the factors that determines the hardness and fat content of the cheese, etc. Some historical knowledge such as how blue cheeses are being made now and then has also been taught, which was entrancing.
Our second wine was a biodynamic Chablis, which happens to be my favourite white wine. This Chablis was very different from what I used to have, it's oaky, and has a lot of mineral notes on the nose, almost savory on the palate. When paired with our second cheese, a Brillat-Savarin from Ile-de-France, the pungent white wine suddenly seemed less sharp and became mellow, while the rich creamy cheese instantly felt lighter and smoother. This was an amazing pairing and it was this instance I was stunned by Geoffrey's skills. With the same wine, we went on to try the third cheese, a smoky, salty comte. This hard cheese has a little grit and a pleasant crunch which I enjoyed a lot. Geoffrey told us the crunch we got from the cheese was in fact calcium crystals, instead of salt. Isn't that just fasinating? Now there is more excuse for me to buy more cheese! He also told us a technique to tell whether a comte is of top quality by its mere appearance, which is a little trick I'd rather keep to myself. But if you are interested, you can always attend one of Geoffrey's tasting session and find out yourself!
Before we moved on to the red wine, we discussed a little bit on how wine are being produced. During which, Geoffrey taught us a general rule of thumb to choosing a good pair of wine and cheese - which is to find a bottle and a cheese that is produced in the same region. Since the wine grapes and the grass that fed the animal shared the same terrior, it is very unlikely that the two would not go well with each other. It's a simple and brilliant technique that is achievable even to someone who was completely new to wine and cheese pairing.
The third glass of wine is a red Syrah from northern Rhône, which is also my favourite out of the three wines we've had this night. This red wine is bold and juicy. On the nose, it has a lot of oakiness, blackcurrant, as well as a hint of freshly cut grass. On the palate, it has supple tanning, and a jamy, dried fruit like kind of fruity sweetness. It's a very approachable, delicious red. When paired with a grassy, peppery washed rind cheese from Langres, the fruity wine almost tasted like port. It was a very interesting experience which unfortunately I lack the vocabulary to describe.
The fifth cheese was a pungent blue cheese called Bleu de Basque. With my very limited wine and cheese pairing knowledge, I thought a blue cheese is usually paired with a sweet wine such as a Sauternes or port. But Geoffrey surprised me by pairing this beautiful blue beauty with the first rosé we had and it simply worked! The blue cheese did not overwhelm the delicate rosé, and the sweet rosé balanced out the salty blue cheese very well. Another recommendation Geoffrey gave was to try pairing a blue cheese with pale ale which I am definitely going to try.
To end this wine and cheese tasting event, we all blind tasted the last cheese, and we had to guess what kind of milk was it made from, the type of the cheese, the country of origin and whether it's made with pasteurized or unpasteurized milk. The winner who got all four questions right will win a cheese box, delivered to their door! How excited was that. Not surprisingly I didn't not win, but it was a nice and fun little game to end this amazing evening.
To conclude with my general thoughts, as a person who loves wine and routinely pour myself a glass of supermarket wine during dinner time, as well as cracking open a bottle of something special on a weekend evening, I can tell you straight off the back that the wines you get from Geoffrey is not something you easily come across in the grocery store. Don't get me wrong, supermarket wines are great, but those Geoffrey picked out are exceptional. For the price you're paying (£55), it really was a steal. Not only because of the quality of wine and cheese you get, but also the professional knowledge and amazing experience you'll get out of Geoffrey. This tasting event suits beginners and experts alike. It could be a fun social event as well if you book a session with your friends. It was a lovely way to spend a weekend evening and I can see myself paying for it myself routinely in the future, as well as recommend my friends to check it out.
Disclaimer: I booked this event via Hype Experience as a content creator. Geoffrey (@tastingwithnivard) offered the event free of charge while I paid Hype a small admission fee.