Nutty Blue Cheese Shortbread with Port

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When I ask people what they pair with port, the first response is usually chocolate. Deep, dark, silky and smooth, it’s wonderful with many port wines. But people not fond of chocolate want something different. A few years ago, I set out to find an offering when chocolate gets thrown out. What I found will be nice to enjoy on a sunny, weekend afternoon this spring.

Two Sacramento, California area ports tasted back then were Revolution Wine’s St. Rey, a Ruby style and Wofford Acres Vineyard (WAV Wines) vintage style Port, both with 8% residual sugar. Blue cheese is a classic pairing with port so I started there and picked up a Maytag blue, easy to find anywhere in the States. Wanting something more than cheese, I found a Shortbread recipe and added the cheese.

The WAV Port and shortbread were superb together. The pairing wasn’t so great with Revolution’s St. Rey but it worked OK. We brought out the chocolate (70% cocoa) and both wines worked but the St. Rey shined.

Knowing both had the same residual sugar, I contacted the wineries to ask about acidity. The WAV port acidity was .18 grams or.68 grams per 100 milliliters. According to Craig Haarmeyer, winemaker for Revolution Wines, the St. Rey contains a small amount of acidity but he didn’t run the final numbers, thus the exact level wasn’t available.

A port that is lightly sweet with more acidity works better with this type of savory shortbread. Butter and blue cheese equal fat and a higher acid port is satisfying, cutting through the richness of the shortbread. On the contrary, sweeter port with less acid will work better with straight chocolate.

Port is not just for dessert. Afternoon tea and crumpets? Try port and shortbread instead.

Nutty Blue Cheese Shortbread Cookies
Recipe type: Savory
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 30
These savory cookies pair nicely with many port wines. For a white wine try something on the sweet side (Juraçon, Côte de Layon or Sauternes from France, or a Recioto from Italy).
  • 1 cup blue cheese or gorgonzola, crumbled, room temperature
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¾ to 1 cup flour
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon finely ground black pepper
  • ⅔ cup toasted hazelnuts or almonds, finely chopped (if you don’t like nuts, just leave them out)
  1. In a food processor, combine crumbled blue cheese and butter; process until creamy.
  2. Mix ¾ cup flour, cornstarch, salt, and pepper together in a small bowl. Add to blue cheese mixture, pulsing just to combine (until mixture resembles coarse meal). Add nuts if using and process just until moist clumps form.
  3. Transfer dough to a sheet of plastic wrap and work with your palm until dough holds together. If dough feels too wet, add more flour a tablespoon at a time.
  4. Shape dough into a log. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour, but may be refrigerated longer or overnight.
  5. Preheat oven to 325° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. When ready to bake, slice approximately ¼-inch thick. Bake cookies on center oven rack until light brown on the bottom, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on racks.
  6. NOTE: Shortbread can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.


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