When Aldi asked me to hold a cheese and wine party, to showcase the special products in the Aldi Exquisite Christmas range, I briefly flirted with the idea of swanning about in a kaftan like Margot in The Good Life. I have never held a cheese and wine party and the prospect had me ridiculously excited.
I sent out invitations and headed to our nearest Aldi. I was looking for products from the premium Specially Selected range and from Specially Selected Exquisite which is an extension of the former and comprises of 16 luxurious, handcrafted, hand finished foods right across the Christmas food spectrum. I filled my bags with cheeses, wine, olives, fruit, bread and crackers managing to get an awful lot for my money. It was all very tempting, beautifully packaged and reasonably priced – but how would it taste?
We decorated the Christmas tree, lit the fire and waited for friends to arrive. I’d laid a table with a selection of wines to complement the cheese and had decided that our tasting would begin with hard cheeses, move on to soft cheeses and finish up with blue cheese. I made sure that I had removed the soft cheeses and the stilton from the fridge well before they arrived so that they had time to come up to room temperature which shows off their flavour best.
Handmade Cheddar Truckle
Starting with the Specially Selected, Handcrafted Cheddar Truckle was, in retrospect, probably a mistake. It totally stole the show and, when I asked everyone at the end of the evening for an overall winner, it was this one which took the crown. Having said that, it set the tone for a lovely evening – everyone was surprised at the depth of flavour and that signature crunchy texture you only get in a well matured, handcrafted cheese.
At only £3.49 many of my guests are now planning an immediate trip to Aldi to stock up! This cheese was recently featured by the Observer food monthly team, coming top of Georgio Locatelli’s Christmas cheese list. Aldi stock two crunchy cheddar truckles – Mature Cheddar with the black wax coat and aged Balsamic Vinegar and Red Onion Extra Mature in it’s festive red jacket.
Exquisite Collection Limestone Coast Chardonnay
We sipped Limestone Coast Chardonnay (£5.79 per bottle, £34.74 for a case of 6) alongside our cheddar truckle and it was a lovely, smooth, fruity complement to the cheese. It was dry with flavours of honeysuckle, peach and pineapple without that citrus acidity you often get with a Chardonnay; even those who wouldn’t normally buy a Chardonnay were impressed. Aldi recommend this particular wine as a pairing with their handmade cheddar truckle – pick up the Christmas and New Year catalogue in store for more recommendations from award winning wine expert, Olly Smith.
Specially Selected Cracker Selection
We also put Aldi’s specially selected crackers through their paces, the consensus of opinion was that they were an excellent selection at a very reasonable price. In the selection box (£1.79) there were no dodgy extras just to fill up space and I wasn’t left with all the rubbish ones no one wants at the end of the evening! They were delicately flavoured and light but crunchy meaning they didn’t overwhelm the cheese.
Specially Selected Cheese Truckles
Next we sampled three flavoured cheese truckles. All priced at a very reasonable £1.99 for 200g, we chose between Yorkshire Wensleydale with Festive Fruit & White Port, Yorkshire Wensleydale with Cranberry and Prosecco and a Mature Cheddar with Whisky. None of us thought that we were fruit with cheese fans (despite a couple of us hailing from Yorkshire) but we were pleasantly surprised by both Wensleydales. The cheddar was very creamy without the crunch of the handmade truckle but with a lovely flavour. None of us thought that we could really distinguish the alcohol but, when I sampled it again the next day with a clean palette, and without a glass of wine in my hand, there was a definite hint of whisky! This selection was also popped onto my friends’ shopping lists for Christmas – most of them had someone who would love a whisky based cheddar or anything containing a splash of Prosecco!
Specially Selected Mature Cheddar Cheese Bake with Cider
Melty cheese! You should’ve seen my guests’ eyes light up when I brought out this ceramic dish of piping hot loveliness (£2.49 for 150g).
I served it with a hand stretched Cherrybell and Piquillo Pepper flatbread (£1.39) to tear and share and dunk into the oozy cheese.
This went down VERY well and I’m really glad I bought two while I was there, my second born loves cheese and this will be his idea of heaven this Christmas! The flavour was rich without being cloying and lots of fun to share with friends.
If you like melty cheese Aldi also offer a whole Camembert with Fig Pecan and Honey – how delicious does that sound?!
Exquisite Collection Crackers for Cheese
The packaging on all the Specially Selected products looked really good and wouldn’t be out of place in a high end deli. The Exquisite Collection crackers (£1.99 for approx 36) were so pretty, it seemed a shame to eat them – but we managed! I’d be hard pressed to choose a favourite, Aldi offer Tomato and Provençal Herb, Wholemeal and Buttermilk or Wholemeal Spelt and Chive for your delectation – fabulous flavours! These worked particularly well with the collection of soft cheeses which we tasted next.
Trevarrian Soft Cheeses
I chose three cheeses all produced in Cornwall by the Trevarrian Cornish Creamery, a 200g Camembert, 200g Brie and a 70g Goats Cheese all priced at 99p each. All were creamy and well flavoured but we were eating them a little too soon – they hadn’t yet developed that lovely ooze you get when a soft cheese nears its use by date. (I bought extra which we will scoff at New Year – at that price I would’ve been mad not to).
Specially Selected Olives
No cheese and wine party would be complete without a selection of olives. I chose Vodka Martini Halkidiki Olives, Middle Eastern Inspired Olives with lemon and coriander and some lovely green Sicilian Nocellara olives all priced at £1.49 per 150g tub. All were tasty but I particularly enjoyed the middle eastern olives as did everyone else.
Exquisite Collection New Zealand Pinot Noir
We decided to change wines for our final cheese of the evening and chose a Pinot Noir from the Exquisite Collection. This red wine was fragrant with flavours of cherries and plums and was strong enough to stand up to a stilton but fresh enough to drink with a Camembert. It costs £6.99 per bottle or £41.94 for a case of six.
Long Clawson Blue Stilton Pot
This pretty pot would make a lovely gift for the cheese lover in your life. It costs £3.49 for 225g and is utterly delicious, creamy and full of flavour. It is a strong one, so be warned if you prefer a milder stilton.
- We were all very impressed by the quality of all the cheeses we tried, especially as they were all so reasonably priced. It felt like a touch of luxury at a fraction of the price I would expect to be paying. We all agreed that we would be heading for Aldi to explore the whole range of Christmas products in the Specially Selected and Exquisite Collections.
- I loved that I could buy a really good range of cheeses which were all suitable for vegetarians and all produced in the UK.
- Being photographed while you are eating cheese is odd but, hey, you’re eating cheese and you soon forget all about it!
- Start your cheese and wine party with milder flavoured cheeses and move onto the more full flavoured so your palette can really appreciate them.
- A cheese and wine party is a VERY good thing to organise. It gets friends together with tasty food, a bottle or two of the good stuff and, best of all at this very busy time of the year, it takes very little preparation and makes very little washing up!
All the products I have featured in this post are now available at Aldi stores and more have become available since I visited. All the cheeses we sampled at my cheese and wine party are suitable for vegetarians but do check the labels on the following, just in case, because you might want to try…
Specially Selected Goats’ Cheese Bombes with Exquisite Collection Marlborough Sauvignon
Specially Selected Regional Blue Cheeses; Cornish Blue, Shropshire Blue, Yorkshire Blue, Buxton Blue with Botrytis Semillon
Specially Selected Brie with Truffle with Maynard’s 10 Year Old Tawny Port
Specially Selected Large Baking Camembert With Fig, Pecan And Honey Exquisite Collection NZ Pinot Noir
which all became available from 12th December!
If you hold a cheese and wine party do let me know how yours goes!
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.