Wine and cheese evenings have a proud history, but you’ll still get some weird looks if you start mixing one with the other. Unless you deliberately drop a veined chunk of stilton into an unattended glass of pinot noir, eating booze-soaked dairy is normally a happy accident. But, like many of the best inventions, happy accidents can often work out brilliantly.
Proving that real wine and cheese sessions only need one ingredient rather than two, traditional Formaggio Ubriaco from Treviso in northern Italy is the ultimate indulgent optimiser. Literally translated as “Drunken Cheese”, the dish boasts booze-soaked curds, saturated with local red wine and crushed grapes. All you need to bring are the biscuits.
There are many different forms of Ubriaco across the Veneto region. Although all are made from the same rich, ivory, pasteurised cow’s milk, the booze involved can vary enormously according to preference. Though red wines are probably the most popular, fragments of pomace and even leftover prosecco can be used to infuse the cheese with fruity flavour.
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Like many unusual delicacies, the invention of drunken cheese owes a lot to happenstance. During the First World War, Austrian troops invaded northern Italy and began ransacking local homes on the hunt for supplies.
In a bid to save their stock, several cheesemakers tried to conceal their cheeses in handy wine barrels. When the Austrian’s eventually left, the locals were left with an unusual and delicious new delicacy that they’ve been producing ever since.
Although drunken cheese remains something of a regional delicacy, there is a growing international market for the stuff. Several cheese experts currently ship to the UK from Italy, so you can easily sit down to the wine-iest cheese board you’ve ever eaten. It will certainly make after dinner a whole lot merrier.