For me, the finest gourmet pleasures in France are cheese and wine, but there's an art to pairing the two. I'm a bit of a foodie, and I love knowing how to put together flavours to create great tasting dishes, but I've always struggled with cheese and wine. There are many great cookery classes throughout France, and I jumped at the chance to learn how to pair my favourite cheeses with my favourite wines. With France only 30 minutes away with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle, I'd recommend fitting in a French culinary class on your 2014 holiday.
White Wine and Cheese
Traditionally produced French cheeses make the perfect companion to wines and I love to enjoy mine on holiday after a busy day of sightseeing. Lighter white wines have lower levels of tannin so won't overwhelm the flavours in the cheese. An ideal pairing would be a white grape grown in Alsace, the northeast winemaking region of France, teamed with muenster cheese - delicious! Another winning combination is the tangy chevre cheese with a dry white wine from the Loire Valley region of France.
Have you ever tried a fresh goat cheese with Sancerre or Bordeaux? Chateau Magence Graves Blanc is a crisp white wine with floral and citrus notes that best suit artisan cheeses such as bucherondin, a soft goat's cheese with a dense and creamy texture. Another popular suitor is Petit Basque, a creamy sheep's milk cheese with sweet overtones, produced by the Lactalis family in Laval, Mayenne, France's western region.
Red Wine and Cheese
If you prefer red wine then it's important to remember that the older, fruitier and less tannic it is, the better it will pair with a creamy wedge of cheese. A tart red wine like Chateau Le Touzinard Bordeaux Rouge is a combination of cherries and cranberries with a hint of black olive, menthol and oak. This type of wine pairs beautifully with an aged, sweet and nutty comte cheese which hails from the Jura Mountains in eastern France, where it is pasteurised to the highest standards.
Creamy cheese like blue d'Auvergne and Montrachet from Burgundy go well with an earthy flavoured red wine, such as Bordeaux. You can try matured goats cheeses with sweeter wines such as Maury, Sauternes or a strong Rhone Valley red.
Why not check out
Slice of France
for a culinary tour? Or, travel south of Dijon, between Fixin and Gevrey Chambertin to see how cheese is made during the early mornings at a Gaugry factory. Discover how to combine the diverse flavours of French wine and cheese at a two-hour pairing session at Baud et Millet restaurant in
. There you'll learn about famous Bordeaux wine regions like Medoc, Saint-Emilion, Graves, Entre-Deux-Mers and Blaye - my favourite kind of lesson.
Take a master class at culinary arts centres like
Paris by Mouth
who run a range of tours and tastings, or join a two-hour
cheese and wine class
for 85 euros at Cook'n With Class. If you fancy something really fancy, then head over to
Le Cordon Bleu Paris
where food and wine pairing demonstrations are held.
century wine cellar
, near the Louvre, gives visitors an overview of various families of cheese produced in France and cheese slicing etiquette - you'll even get to take home a cheat sheet for all your tastings so you can recreate it at home.
If you still have room for more, drive north of Toulouse to visit the famous cheese village
I loved learning how to successfully pair great wines and cheeses, especially in such a beautiful country. If you're interested in learning more about cheese and wine pairing, France is a great place to start. It's only a quick journey with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle, and by the end of your trip you may even be a cheese and wine connoisseur.