Bruce Rowan’s approach to making and enjoying cheese is simple. He doesn’t get hung up on the complexities of analysing flavour profiles in the way others talk about wines or coffees or single-origin chocolate: “I just want you try it and tell me whether you like the taste.”
People clearly do like Bruce’s cheeses. All are made on site at The Goodwood Estate in West Sussex, using pure and simple artisanal techniques. Organic soil, good animal husbandry and a natural diet combine to produce superior-quality milk that’s ideal for cheesemaking.
“Our dairy shorthorns are a traditional English breed, wonderful for cheesemaking. They're a low-yielding cow but their milk is rich and high in fat, with good proteins.”
Goodwood’s farm has been operating organically for over 20 years. The cows naturally benefit from grazing on grass grown in high-quality, nutrient-rich soil. “The wine idea of terroir ties into what we believe in," says Bruce, "the quality of the grass the cows are fed on and definitely first and foremost is the soil.”
That essence of terroir and cultivating the best quality product from the soil up also drives the way we make our wines at Gusbourne. Against this common backdrop, here Bruce talks through what to look for in his three artisanal cheeses, while Master Sommelier and Gusbourne Brand Ambassador Laura Rhys weighs up her ideal Gusbourne match.
Charlton is our traditional cloth-bound cheddar. Flavour-wise it’s creamy and light, never sharp or acidic. It’s a typical hard cheddar with a dryish texture, but the creaminess comes from the flavour of the milk, the butteriness, the grass. The more it ages the more it takes on a subtle salty character.
I think Gusbourne Brut Reserve would be a really nice match with the Charlton. There’s a bit more weight coming from the Pinot fruit in the Brut Reserve, which stands up to the textural element of a cheddar. But also that creamy, slightly salty character that Bruce describes.
Levin Down is a soft white bloomy-rinded cheese, similar to camembert. When it’s young – usually seven or eight weeks old – you really pick up the flavour of the milk. As it breaks down you get creaminess around the rind and maybe a very slight bitterness. Cut young it’s fairly solid. As it gets to its perfect ripeness it’ll be creamy throughout but never runny.
This one’s an easy match. I’d go for a riper vintage of Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs – say the 2016, which has a lot of pronounced fruit character, but also nice weight and a lovely salinity. It could contrast beautifully with that young, creamy flavour profile that Bruce talks about.
Molecomb Blue is a soft, creamy, natural-rinded cheese. We add culture to it so you get the blue veining on the inside but not the outside. It doesn’t have that metallic taste you sometimes get in typical blues. It’s a lovely mild, balanced blue, I never want it to be too strong.
Blues can sometimes be tricky to match with wines. But because this is a mild blue, the red fruit character of Gusbourne Rosé will match that tang of the blue cheese, with still enough weight to feel balanced.
It’s true that whenever we taste something purposefully, we let our senses guide us. When you taste something, you’re judging it, analysing it – and all your senses come into play in exactly the same way. What does it look like, smell like? Is there a textural element? What do you get at the tip of your tongue? How does it finish?
“It’s the same,” says Laura, “as when you’re tasting a piece of really top-quality meat and understanding what makes it taste so good. It’s the same with cheese and the same with wine. And gin. And everything else. Our senses are so important and they work very well together.”
Bruce Rowan has been making cheese at Goodwood’s Home Farm since 2012. His cheesemaking journey has taken him from Neal’s Yard Dairy in Covent Garden to Devon, where he learned his trade at a traditional farm before moving to West Sussex.
Laura Rhys is a Master Sommelier and has been working with Gusbourne since 2015, where she’s our Global Brand Ambassador.
Gusbourne is a proud supplier to the Goodwood Farm Shop, where you can also find a range of organic cheeses, meats and dairy products, as well as Gusbourne wines. Our West Sussex vineyards border the Goodwood Estate.
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