Le Tastevin Wine Club - Notes on the Cheeses - September 10, 2008

The cheeses are from the Holiday Market Cheese shop in Royal Oak. The French "epi" loaves are once again from The Give Thanks Bakery in Rochester.

Chimay - a semi-soft fully artisanal raw cow's cheese made by Trappist Monks in Belgium. It is considered to be the best example of a washed rind "Devine" cheese and is seldom available in the United States. Chimay is the origin of washed rind cheeses. Monasteries originally produced beer and wine, and many years ago the Belgian Monks began washing the rind of this cheese in Belgian Chimay Beer, thus giving the cheese its name and flavor. This full but pungent cheese has layers of complex flavor, and is mellow and bacony, unlike most Monastery-style copycat cheeses that are consistently flavorless (Think Munster). While Chimay Cheese would be ideal with a large bottle of Chimay beer, it also is a good match for big red wines such as the Tuscans we will taste tonight. Save the trip to Belgium for later.

Comte (con-TAY) - one of the world's greatest cheeses, is made in the Jura Mountains of eastern France, near Switzerland. (Our sample is from Bellecombe en Savoie). It is a firm unpasterurized cheese from the milk of Montbeliard cows grazing on summer alpine grass. The rind is considered inedible. Before it can be sold it must pass an evaluation to get the Comte label, and must receive a grade of 12 (out of 20). Our sample was graded a 15, thus receiving the green Comte stamp. The wheels average 90 pounds (that is 140 gallons of milk) and are aged up to 2 years. The color darkens with age (ours was aged about 1 year), and ranges from ivory to gold. Like Swiss Gruyere (gree-AIR), Comte has aromas of hazelnut and butter, and is dotted with "eyes", although the flavor is sweeter and mellower, and more intense than its Swiss cousins. Comte is a versatile cheese, marvelous when melted, and works well with German Rieslings as well as being able to soften the edge on big red wines, like Tuscans, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and other Rhônes and Burgundies.

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