Strolling around Topsham in Devon earlier today in the late autumn sunshine we passed a cheese shop that looked a bit out of the ordinary and turned out to be something of an Aladdin's cave.
Gary Jungheim the proprietor not only sells cheese, or 'real cheese' as he describes it, but gets involved in making it as a result of which his firm Country Cheeses stocks a whole lot of West Country cheeses I'd never even heard of before.
I'm on a quest to find cheeses that work with red wine at the moment (you may be surprised to hear that many don't) and here's how they fared:
A hard Caerphilly-like goats cheese from Phil Rainbow of the Somerset Cheese Company. Attractively firm and crumbly in texture (firm to cut, light and fresh in the mouth) but with a full, tangy, nutty flavour. 7/10 with our red (a 2006 Domaine Gauby Les Calcinaires Côtes du Roussillon Villages). A more than creditable showing but a Sauvignon Blanc or Loire red like Bourgeuil or Saumur Champigny would have respected the cheese's integrity better.
A tangy Pecorino-like sheeps cheese made by Terri Rasmussen in North Devon. Sheeps cheese is always pretty good with red wine and this was no exception. 8/10
A delicious washed rind cows milk cheese with an unctuous creamy texture. Not nearly as pungent as most French washed rind cheeses but with plenty of rich, full flavour. Just about survived our red but would be considerably happier with a white such as an Alsace Pinot Gris. 5/10
* In fact the cheese is normally named Morn Dew and comes from one of my favourite local producers Pete Humphries of White Lake Cheeses of Somerset.
We also tasted a sample of the Beenleigh Blue from Ticklemore Cheese in Totnes they were selling, a ewes' cheese I had tasted before. It's deceptively mild looking without much veining but packs a similar punch to a Roquefort so is better suited to a sweet wine such as Sauternes. Not good with red anyway - 3/10
The problem with strong and blue cheeses is they tend to strip the fruit out of reds leaving you with a slightly bitter taste in your mouth. More on this subject, if you're interested, on my website Matching Food & Wine.
Anyway Country Cheeses is a gem and I'm glad to have discovered them. They also have branches in Tavistock and Totnes.