I love cheese and I never win anything. So when I won a tutored cheese tasting for me and five friends, I was rather excited. But since it’s me we’re talking about, and with my competitive experiences to bring to bear: horses being shot after my bet; losing a wager to a client and having to buy dinner at Singapore’s most expensive restaurant, I was not expecting much.
In fact, I do try to live by Alice Walker’s poem Expect Nothing. When I remember, anyway.
With this in mind, I suppose The Teddington Cheese owner and expert Tony didn’t actually have to try very hard to impress me. Which makes the fabulous afternoon we spent in his company all the more wonderful.
The Teddington Cheese has been in business for 17 years, and we’ve been frequenting it since we moved to south west London seven years ago.
What was once a coal shop, is now a tiny haven for cheese lovers. After the birth of my first child, it was practically my first destination: no pica cravings for coal for me. I was after the unpasteurised, the soft and the blue.
We showed up mob handed. None of us had been able to secure babysitters. I hadn’t actually wanted to, to be honest. My children love cheese. We warned Tony in advance and he suggested it might be a bit boring for kids but that they were welcome. He was very welcoming.
Not least since we started proceedings with a very drinkable glass of wine – a Barrel Fermented Sharpham White from the Sharpham Vineyard in Devon.
First we did a comparative tasting of hard cheeses: different milks but similar textures. The Gorwydd Caerphilly made from cows’ milk and a very un-goaty Chevre Premier de Moulis were great but the group was unanimous in voting ewes’ milk Spenwood the winner. We were clearly discerning cheese tasters. Cows’ milk cheese is generally around £19 per kilo, while the ewes’ milk is closer to £27.
Given we were most of the way through a glass of white it was interesting to hear that when tasting, it’s best not to cleanse between cheeses with water or wine, but let the palette balance itself. I put this to the test with our next investigation: the impact of age on taste and texture with a Cave Aged Cirone. Six months was sweet. Three and a half years was powerful. But the 18 month version won out for eatability.
But as we moved on to tasting what size can do to a cheese, Tony broke out a lovely Portugese red: Quinta de la Rosa and I’m afraid I quite forgot about not cleansing my palette.
You need to bring on the red wine when you dial up the flavour strength. And it’s quite amazing the difference between a Langres and a Petite Langres. Two cheeses, made exactly the same way. So size does matter (like we were ever in any doubt).
At the risk of sounding like my memory gets hazy after the red wine, we went on for three more delicious lessons: blues, washed rinds and a British versus French duel. You might think we’d be all cheesed out by then.
But you’d be wrong.
And like a great cheese tease, Tony had a couple more revelations up his sleeve: his best ever cheese and wine combination and his perfect dinner party cheese board.
I couldn’t share those here. It would be a disservice to The Teddington Cheese. Throughout the compelling two hours Tony shared generous tastings of cheese, liberally topped up our glasses with well matched wines and shared his insights and expertise. It was edifying, entertaining and utterly delish.
Every time we’ve visited the shop we’ve been encouraged to try as much as we wanted to before we bought. And we have happily spent our money and we keep going back. They know their cheeses and will only sell them to you when they are ready. They care.
Treat yourself, purchase as a Christmas gift or simply set up an account. You can visit the shop or buy online. Quite simply I can’t recommend the cheese master class, Tony and the Teddington Cheese highly enough.