Wednesday, October 1, 2014


Harlech is a Welsh Cheddar forcefully flavored with horseradish and parsley.  I have sold the cheese for years and have personally enjoyed its fresh, zingy and peppery (even hot) attack especially with cold beer, although "attack" sounds a little harsh since the cheese is actually smooth and creamy.  Reviewers vary when describing the sharpness of the cheddar base which probably means the added flavors mask the essential cheddar taste to the point of confusing the palate.

Harlech is a round disk roughly eight inches in diameter and three inches tall.  It is coated with a thick orange wax, which is a nice color considering the season.  It weighs 2kg or 4.4 pounds.  A large round label covers the top of the cheese with "Harlech Somerdale" appearing in large print.  Somerdale is the leading exporter of British cheeses to the United States and they actually export two hundred fifty cheeses to fifty different countries.  Barbers Cheddar, which we wrote about on September 20th is one of theirs also.  Nowhere on the label does the maker of the cheese appear.  Just for the record, it's Abergavenny Fine Foods of Gwent.

In the middle of the cheese label appears a sizeable soldier carrying a sword and shield which, coupled with his dress and long hair, makes him appear quite medieval.  With just a little research a story begins to unfold about Harlech being a castle in North Wales perched on a cliff overlooking both Snowdonia National Park and the sea.  Harlech Castle is classified as a World Heritage site by UNESCO and "one of the finest examples of 13th and 14th century military architecture in Europe", hence the soldier on the label.

Harlech Castle was commissioned by Edward the king of England and built from local stone by architect Master James of St. George between 1282 and 1289.  Edward was a tall, temperamental and intimidating sovereign who forcefully believed in royal authority and national identity.  Welsh patriots defended their homeland repeatedly against the invading British under Edward over a twenty year period before succumbing to the invaders in 1282.  The castle was to be built as both a fortress and royal palace for the king and a symbol of British permanence in the area.  In 1284 Wales was formally incorporated into England.

In 1301 Edward II was born in the castle and became the first Prince of Wales.  There was an earlier "Prince of Wales" however, one of the Welsh fighters before colonization, and in fact those fighters bore the Harlech name before the construction of the castle, which makes one wonder if the image of the soldier is British and defending the castle or Welsh and defending the homeland.  So is the cheese named after the castle or the Welsh soldiers?

Please join us Friday when Dave Klepinger of Northeast Sales joins us with a tasting of Spanish and South American wines and then on Friday the 10th when Scott Beauchamp of Eagle Rock returns with Italians and California wines. 

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