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Stilton cheeseStilton is one of those cheeses you either love or hate. Looking rather too much like a cheese that's been left at the back of the fridge too long, it's blue veins will either inspire fear or a reverential delight. If it's only the smell that puts you off then you'll have no problems entering this May Day's Stilton Cheese Rolling Championships taking place in Stilton, the Cambridgeshire village that made the cheese famous.

Because you don't roll a whole real cheese, worth a whopping £80, but a wooden replica. Just bear in mind though if you do win you'll get handed a real cheese - plus a trophy and couple of bottles of wine as well. If you don't consume the prize there and then you'll need to store both cheese and wine with care: Stilton cheese and bottles of wine (more accurately their cork stoppers) will deteriorate and crumble if not kept moist.

Laying wine bottles horizontally and wrapping the cheese in greaseproof paper will solve the moisture problem. But tradition advises an alternative solution: opening and pouring the wine, usually a port, onto the hollowed-out Stilton. This homily is still slavishly followed by many who call themselves cheese lovers, but I don't know why. The end-result is a soggy cheese that's now an unappetising greyish-purple colour and a bottle of port now sadly diminished - port and Stilton do go together but it's best to keep the port wine for drinking with, and not on, the cheese. But what sort of port makes the best match, and what sort of Stilton come to that?

Stilton sectionThere are basically two types of port – red and white – and two types of Stilton – traditional blue and the lesser-known white without the inoculated mould. Lighter white port matches the fresh and creamy flavours of white Stilton, while the more full-bodied and sweeter red port complements the stronger more acidic flavours of blue Stilton. You'll only find one sort of white port on the shelves but there are many categories of red.

The fruitiest, and often and the cheapest, is Ruby port. Like all ports this starts life as a wine made in the Portuguese region of Porto using indigenous grape varieties. A hefty dose of brandy is then added to the young table wine and the resulting drink, now known as a fortified wine, is then matured in large wooden casks – the longer the maturation period the more balanced and complex the flavours in the finished wine. Ruby port is aged for three years, the shortest period within the port categories, and is a great drink for those who don't like the more usual jammy, raisin and brown sugar flavours found in many fortified wines. Sainsbury's Ruby Port (£4.89) offers excellent value and tastes like a concentrated and slightly sweetened Cabernet Sauvignon.

Next port up the quality category ratings is Reserve port. This superior Ruby gets a couple more years of cask ageing than the bog-standard stuff, this adds chocolate and smoky overtones to Ruby's fruity flavours. To taste this in action try Marks and Spencer's Finest Reserve Port (£8.99) – drinking this is like sucking on a violet liqueur chocolate that's had a smear of Marmite added. Paying more won't necessarily get you a better bottle of Reserve. Cockburn's Special Reserve (£9.29 all supermarkets) tastes sickly sweet with an expectedly harsh after-taste.

All port tastes sweet, the fortifying dose of brandy sees to that. Neat alcohol is naturally sweet and when it gets to the 20 per cent level, as is the case with port, it can sometimes overpower the fruity flavours of the base wine.

Cockburn's Tawny PortBut when a port producer correctly judges the level of added brandy and years of cask ageing then any final sweetness not only balances the fruit and chocolate flavours of the port but the high levels of salt and fat found in the accompanying Stilton cheese. This is why port and Stilton are such a great match. Together they satisfy the three basic taste sensations we all crave – sweet, salt and fat. Just like other great high fat, high salt and oily food combinations (just think of salty chips dipped in ketchup) port and Stilton is a fantastic, but possibly not everyday, treat.

Though a great combination, some ports are still best appreciated sans cheese. Cockburn's 10 year-old Tawny (Sainsbury's £9.29) tastes so crisp and light - despite bristling with flavours of raisins, almonds and walnuts - that cheese seems unnecessary.