Last month I attended an altogether rather novel brandy and cheese tasting event at Le Pont De La Tour, overlooking the River Thames and Tower Bridge, which was the perfect backdrop for this delightful and light-hearted evening with award-winning international cheesemonger, Rodolphe Le Meunier and St-Rémy’s Master Blender, Cécile Roudaut, who have formed a new gastronomic collaboration.
Between the two of them they have created pairings such as St-Rémy XO paired with Old Mimolette, a delicious match in which each element highlights the other. The Old Mimolette highlights and accentuates the key aromas of St-Rémy XO such as apricot, figs and dates.
The evening was hosted by industry experts Joel Harrison and Neil Ridley, who I had previously met at a whisky pairing evening, who posed questions to St-Rémy Master Blender Cécile Roudaut and Rodolphe Le Meunier, as they explained more about the launch of their new gastronomic collaboration.
It was quite simple really, as both St-Rémy and Rodolphe Le Meunier share the same values of authenticity, simplicity and generosity with a strong belief that both brandy and cheese taste better when enjoyed in the company of friends – I couldn’t agree more!
Speaking on this new global collaboration, Master Blender Cécile Roudaut said: “France is well-known for its diversity of cheeses, but up until now, nobody has thought to associate them with brandy. People are used to enjoying cheese with wine, or with port and with brandy it’s truly an entirely new tasting experience. Working with a ‘World’s Best Cheesemonger’ as well as ‘One of the Best Craftsmen of France’ has been a fantastic experience. Rodolphe isn’t any ordinary cheesemonger. I’ve discovered in him someone extremely creative, and so full of ideas. It was really exciting to work on associating cheese with St-Rémy brandies.”
For those of you unfamiliar with St-Rémy, it is viewed as perhaps the world’s favourite and most awarded French brandy, and since 1886 it has been prized by both connoisseurs and critics. Originally from the heart of the French Loire Valley, St-Rémy has built up an international reputation for its unrivalled savoir-faire and distinct aromatic identity and style.
St-Rémy is made with wines that exclusively use French grapes sourced from some of the best vineyards in Bordeaux, Champagne, Beaujolais, the Loire and Rhône Valleys as well as Languedoc-Roussillon. The recipe has been handed down from one generation to next for over 130 years now and still remains a closely guarded secret!
During the course of the evening we tried a variety of cheeses paired with both St-Rémy VSOP and St-Rémy XO, as well as refreshing brandy cocktail.
St-Rémy VSOP is amber-yellow and has golden glints. On tasting it, the alcohol notes are replaced very quickly by rich, fruity aromas of cherry, gooseberry and wild strawberries. Its floral notes blend with the woody and vanilla tones of oak.
The following make for a great combination, which we tried during the course of the evening:
St-Rémy VSOP x Swiss Gruyere
As some of you will no doubt know, Swiss Gruyere is a raw cow’s milk cheese that develops delicate floral aromas. These same floral aromas can also be found in St-Rémy VSOP, unifying the palate to create a superb and balanced experience where no one characteristic overpowers the others.
St-Remy VSOP x Stilton
A traditional English cheese that is loved around the world, stilton is a veined curd cheese with a creamy texture and a tangy taste. It’s a strong cheese with hints of spice that are perfectly balanced by the smoothness of St-Rémy VSOP which in turn softens the cheese’s strength by the deep and pleasant smoothness provided by the brandy which results in the unusual gourmet pairing.
St Rémy VSOP x Camembert AOC
St-Rémy’s VSOP brandy softens the finish of the powerful taste of the Camembert, whilst the creamy and soft texture of the Camembert calms down the liveliness of the alcohol in the brandy. This gives the perfect combination of the nutty aroma of the brandy, with notes of walnuts, hazelnuts and nutmeg and the creamy, delicious and moreish Camembert.
St-Rémy XO on the other hand is a complex and rich brandy with a robust and aromatic taste. It tends to linger longer on the palate and offers many layers of flavours. It is a luminous amber colour with tints of rich red hues. It has a mature nose with delicate oak and vanilla aromas, layered with hints of ripe fruits and honey.
We also got to try the following combinations:
St-Rémy XO x Old Mimolette
Old Mimolette has a brittle texture and a strong character with a slightly spicy note on the palate and therefore makes for the perfect partner for St-Rémy XO, creating a long, full and complex taste. The cheese highlights and brings out key aromas of the brandy, such as apricot, figs and dates.
St-Rémy XO x Wood Smoked Goat Cheese
Wood Smoked Goat Cheese has a thick but smooth texture with hazelnut aromas and compliments the French Oak maturation influence of St-Rémy XO. The pairing gives notes of dried fruits, dried apricot and almonds with a long, complex yet balanced finish.
St-Rémy XO x Bleu de Laqueuille
Bleu de Laqueuille is a smooth cheese, both in its texture and taste, but it is the salting by hand process that makes it saltier than other cheeses of the blue cheese family. It is this salt that is balanced by the honeyed, vanilla and sweet spices of St-Rémy XO to make for a perfect pairing.
For information on this fabulous brandy please visit www.st-remy.com
Simon Burrell is Editor-in-Chief of Our Man On The Ground, a member of The British Guild of Travel Writers and professional photographer.
Photographs courtesy of St-Rémy and by Simon Burrell