by Fred McMillin
for January 4, 1999

 

Port and Stilton, a Perfect Pair


Prologue

A Stilton cheese is 9 inches high and weighs 14 lbs.

Some say it was created by a Mrs. Stilton who worked for the fifth Dutchess of Rutland in 1800.

Stilton goes superbly with port wine.

...The Cheese Book by Marquis and Haskell, Simon and Shuster


The Rest of the Story

While there is uncertainty about who created England's great, blue-veined cheese, there's little doubt about where the public first encountered it. Travelers going north from London, tired and hungry as they tumbled out of the coach at the Bell Hotel in the town of Stilton, were offered the cheese we know today as Stilton. The owner of the Bell Hotel, Mr. Cooper Thornhill, had received a wonderful cheese as a Christmas gift from his sister-in-law, Mrs. Paulet. He was so impressed he immediately arranged to purchase all the "Stilton" she could produce. That was in 1790. (Source: Cheese by T.A. Layton)

Port wine tasting
In London, at a private
tasting, my host served
the ports solely
with Stilton cheese.
As for the Port & Stilton affinity, T.A. Layton makes it clear from the very beginning of his 254 pages on the world's cheeses. Though there are many hundreds of cheeses, the handsome dust jacket shows a large Stilton cheese and a decanter of Port wine. A wine merchant and teacher, he lists cheeses to taste with wines. His only choice for Port is Stilton.


The Wine

As for which port, here's a very affordable one that scored well in my last tasting.
Name—Cabernet Sauvignon Port, 1997, El Dorado
Winery—Oakstone
Owners—(Both are teachers) Susan and John Smith
Winemaker—Dr. John Smith (chemistry)
Contact—Susan at (916) 620-5303
Rating—Panel of 11 gave it HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Price—$10 for 375 ml.


Postscript

You may have heard that the French have a blue-veined cheese of some repute, too. It's called Roquefort! How do they compare? The British point out that Stilton is 9" high while Roquefort is but five...and suggest that "Roquefort is Stilton without a college education." (Bunyard).

In Paris I found a different opinion. While dining at Pierre Androuet's unparalleled cheese shop and restaurant, I purchased his Encylopedia devoted to "French Cheese and Many Continental Varieties." The 547 pages dismiss Stilton with a total of five words: "Soft cheese with internal mold." The Dutchess of Rutland thought it was better than that!

 
About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

 

 

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