Sparring with Finbarr – Goat – v – Buffalo


Saving wages requires iron will, especially when wages are in the form of wine!

Admire, therefore, my self restraint.  I saved my second bottle of Aldwick Court Farm & Vineyard (“Aldwick”) harvest “wages” until I had visited Nailsea Farmers’ Market and acquired some Somerset Cheese Company produce to pair with it.

I have a particular penchant for Pennard Red, an earthy goats’ milk cheese which I like to daub with beetroot and horseradish chutney.  It looks pretty weird, but the earthiness in each is soooo tasty.

After the success of Aldwick’s Bacchus with Rachel goat’s cheese (for details please see previous blog), it seemed only right to see how my “go to” cheese faired, this time with Aldwick’s Finbarr 2015.  This is a blend of 55% Madeleine Angevine and 45% Seyval Blanc, which is relatively light in terms of alcohol by volume at 11.5%.  This wine won a well deserved Silver in the UK Vineyard Association “English & Welsh Wine of the Year” award in 2016.

Seyval Blanc is a productive early ripening French hybrid grape which was the most widely grown grape in England in the late 20th century because it is well suited to cooler climates.  However, it was subsequently overtaken by the champagne grape varieties due to the success of UK sparkling wines.  Although hybrid grape wines can taste unnervingly “foxy”, Seyval Blanc does not suffer from this fault.

Madeleine Angevine is an early ripening cross which is noted for light grapey wines, especially in the UK.  I know from harvesting it myself that it oozes sugar (the wasps were circling with intent!) and it is also used as a table grape.  If you have the good fortune to be getting married at Aldwick Court Farm (it has fabulous function rooms and a bar!), your panoramic vineyard views will include the Madeleine vines.

Fruity floral character was to be expected in this wine, but I recalled that the wine also had a tangy twang to it which might suit goat’s cheese.  However, I also sought out an alternative, just in case.  For no particular reason, my Plan B cheese was Pendragon Buffalo.

The Wine

Finbarr is right up my street; it is interesting wine with a soul.  Here is my tasting note:

“A wine of character; light aromas of grapefruit, peach juice, pear juice and jasmine with a grassy tang, and even a hint of nut.  Very refreshing acidity, and to some, the wine may seem quite sharp. However, the acidity is balanced by defined fruit and floral flavours. The finish is not long, but it is very pleasant.  Overall, a clean, refreshing wine with a distinctive flavour profile”.

Aldwick’s own tasting note reads:

“Very distinctive nose with delicate lemonade and sherbet notes. Good weight on the palate. A clean, fresh wine.”

The Pendragon

This white buffalo’s milk cheese is very tangy and sharp with high acidity.  The texture is light and creamy, with nut and mushroom flavours.  To me, the cheese has a slight sweetness (but Somerset Cheese Company, who know much better than me, say it has strong savoury flavours!!) .

The wine benefits the cheese in two ways.  Firstly, the acidity in the wine softens the acidity in the cheese, and also vice versa.  Secondly, the wine accentuates the pungency of the flavours in the cheese, making the cheese taste very pungent.  It is as if the buffalo flavour dial has been turned up to maximum volume.  Overall, a good match, if you like very pungent buffalo cheese – which I do.

The Pennard Red

This Red Leicester lookalike does not seem as acidic as the Pendragon.  It is very savoury, even earthy, and it has some salinity.  The texture is quite dense, and a little grainy.  There are nut and forest floor flavours in addition to those from the goat’s milk.

The wine rather ruined the cheese, which tasted rather soapy, as if lavender and rose petals had been added.

However, although the cheese tasted worse, the wine tasted better!  The saltiness in the cheese, as often happens, accentuated the sweeter fruit flavours in the wine, and also brought the floral jasmine notes to the fore.

So this pairing was partially successful, but as it made my “go to” cheese rather too reminiscent of a National Trust shop, I won’t revisit it.


The Plan B cheese wins.  I suspect this is because the buffalo’s milk cheese was acidic enough to bring out the fruitiness in the wine, and its relative sweetness was a better match with a fruity floral wine than the savoury down to earth character of the goat’s milk cheese.


Since it was now necessary to seek out a match for Pennard Red, I felt obliged to explore what Mencia (one of my “go to” red wine grapes) from Bierzo in north west Spain did for both cheeses.  The wine has juicy fruit flavours of sour black cherry and summer fruit pudding, with plenty of structure and earthy, inky and spicy notes.  The Pendragon seemed to boost the earthiness and made the wine seem more tannic , i.e. more dry and harsh.  But the  Pennard Red smoothed out the tannins in the wine, and created new flavours akin to the fruitiness of a high quality dark chocolate – wedded bliss!

Finbarr 2015 is advertised on the Aldwick website for £10.95:

Merayo Mencia is available from The Wine Shop in Winscombe for £10.49:

Author: Diana Lyalle BA (Oxon) DipWSET

Lawyer turned wine educator and tasting events host based in Wraxall, North Somerset. Wine Specialist for Harvey Nichols Bristol. All opinions expressed are those of Diana Lyalle only. Email: Mobile: 07772055928

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