I know this seems to be a weird and interesting combination but yes its true there is something like a cheese and sake tasting at least here in Auckland New Zealand. I also heard that this contrasting combination of East and West is gaining popularity across the globe so I consider myself to be lucky as I am among the first in NZ to give this a shot.
The tasting that happened last Thursday was hosted by Kapiti Cheese and Tokyo Liquor at the Kapiti Cheese Store in Shortland St Auckland CBD. There were sake and cheese specialists so the event was not just about tasting but it was as well as educating people of what a sake is, how it’s made and what is its different types. For the cheese I guess Kiwi’s in general don’t need learning on this as we all know our cheese well.
On the tasting line up there were 6 cheeses and 6 sake to be tried, take note that the sake in this context will be in the Japanese sense where it means liquor/alcohol and not the rice wine that we know of, while there were several rice wines in the tasting menu it was not limited to it is as plum wines and beer was also served. For the pairings there were several suggestions but they left it open to the tasters what their preference is.
Upon entering the location we were all greeted with a smile and they showed us to our designated oak barrels which will be our table for the night. Wasabi peas and some sort of mixed crackers were served as an appetizer and some presentation was shown. After the detailed explanation on what goes in a bottle of a rice wine the cheese platters were served.
On each platter there were 6 good sized wedges of cheeses arranged from light (Brie/Candidum) to the strong (Blue/Roqueforti), it was meant to be consumed from the light to strong so you can taste everything properly without overpowering the lesser flavoured cheese. After I got my platter I tried to nibble a bit of all the cheeses so I will know what cheese to pair with what liquor.
First to try was the Aorangi Traditional Brie; it is a double cream brie and was the lightest flavoured cheese in the plate. Very silky in texture with hints of earthiness and it is evident when you linger it in your mouth.
Next was the Ramara, a Single Cream Brevi speckled with white mould, this cheese is runny and flowing when sliced which a good sign of the cheese maturity otherwise it will be soft and spongy. It was earthy and buttery with hints of sweetness.
Now were going to the mild flavoured cheese which is the Cumin Seed Gouda, this semi soft cheese have hints of fruity sweetness and hazelnut aroma, the cumin seeds adds a unique character to the cheese and texture.
Up next was the Tuteremoana Cheddar which is a hard pressed cheddar that was matured for 3-4 years giving it a sharp and zesty flavour. I like the texture of this cheese; it is crumbly while holding its form with some interesting crunchy bits due to lactate crystallisation. In my honest opinion this was the best cheddar cheese I ever tried.
Then we have the blues, Kahurangi Creamy Blue was the first, this cheese was my personal top 1 favourite. One of the best blue cheese I ever tried it is smooth, creamy and mild for a blue cheese which is good for those who want to start adding blue cheese to their diet without getting turned off with a blue cheese sharp taste.
Finally the multi awarded cheese that Kapiti has to offer, the Kikorangi. It is a triple cream Roqueforti that why it yields a very creamy and buttery taste, blue vein marbling is dense but surprisingly not over powering as other cheese brands, it had a real pleasant taste which is not very mouldy. This is the first time to taste this cheese as I was afraid trying it before thinking that the taste would be so strong but to my surprise it was not and I think I have to change my top 1 favourite now.
After trying all of the cheeses here comes the liquor, now I guess I am informed which cheese to pair with what drink. First liquor that was served is the Takara Shirakabe Gura Kimoto Junmai which is a 70% polished Rice Wine, it has a strong rice and umami flavour, a bit of a rough drink and comparable to hard drinks instead of a wine. In my personal opinion a light cheese would be great with this sake so I consumed this with Ramara.
Next was the Takara Shirakabe Gura Kimoto Ginjo a premium rice wine where it uses a 60% polished Rice, at first taste you can feel the wine is indeed premium as it was so smooth to drink and have a very refined taste while having a fruity aroma. This goes well with some light cheeses like the Ramara and Brie
Third was the Ozeki Taru Zake again another rice wine which uses a 70% polished rice or over, it has a distinct taste as this wine was stored in Cedar Barrels, that is also evident on the bottle where it is designed to look like wood. It has the similar effect like the wines stored in Oak Barrels where the drink inherits the flavours and aroma of the wood. This earthy woody sake is best with Cumin Seed Gouda as they blend well together giving the same earthy notes.
Fourth was the Choya Plum wine, it’s not a rice wine but a liqueur flavoured with plums, it is sweet with hints of sourness. The women would definitely love this as I noticed the ladies on the tasting event have smiles on their faces when they tried this one out. In my opinion this is a good dessert wine but experts suggest this as an aperitif or served together with spicy, sour and/or sweet dishes.
Fifth was another plum wine called Takara Plum, technically same as the first plum wine but since it was popular that night with the ladies another brand was served. For the plum wines the cheddar was the best pair as they contrast both in flavours which end up complementing each other.
Sixth was the Ozeki Hana Fu Ga which is a sparkling rice wine, regarded as the empress of all carbonated sake this sparkling wine has a floral aroma and hints of peach, really easy to drink this is comparable to the champagne. Again cheddar was the best pair for this wine.
Finally the beer! The Suntroy Premium Malt. This beer is considered to be the top 1 premium beer in Japan, made out of 100% European Aroma Hops, 100% Two Row Barley Malt and 100% Japanese Natural water. It has that hoppy aroma and malty flavour and it works well with just about any cheese but best with the wasabi peas that were served earlier.
Now if you notice I never did mentioned blue cheese paired with something that is because it paired well with all of the liquor or I might be just biased as I love Kapitis blue cheese.
After the 6 liquors I was a bit tipsy. That’s a lot of drinks in a period of 1 hour and 30 minutes and before ending the tasting event we were given some ginger ice cream to cleanse our palate with, it’s an interesting flavour but surprisingly good. Over all this was a really good experience and a really good concept, the choice of cheese and liquor was excellent which made me buy my own hamper to continue indulging at the comfort of my home. So I suggest if you have an opportunity to have this kind of tasting event from where you are grab it as it’s a very unique culinary experience where two things that haven’t been paired before have been matched together in an incomparable harmony.