Le Tastevin Wine Club - Notes on Cheeses - January 14, 2009

The cheeses are from the Whole Foods store in West Bloomfield. The French "epi" loaves are once again from The Give Thanks Bakery in Rochester.

Fromage d'Affinois - a French double-crème, soft-ripened cheese made from cow's-milk by the Fromagerie Guilloteau. Yes, it looks like brie, and is similar in production, appearance and flavor. But no, it is not brie! Unlike Brie, the cow's milk undergoes ultrafiltration, removing water from the pasteurized milk, thus increasing its flavor, creaminess, nutrients and proteins. With a fat content of 60%, Fromage d'Affinois aqulifies as a double-crème cheese, which positions it halfway between a classic Brie (about 45% fat) and a buttery triple-crème, like Brillat-Savarin (about 75%). Its sweet mild flavor does not have the nushroomy earthiness found in Brie, but is creamier and softer, and is great spread on a fresh baguette or a great cracker. Tonight, knives have been provided for spreading the cheese. It is ideal with a sweet German wine or a glass of Champagne, as well as a fruity Burgundy.

Fontina Valle d'Aosta - a firm, classic, raw cow's milk cheese from the Aosta Valley in the Italian Alps where it has been made since the 12th Century. Fontina has a dark golden brown rind with a pale yellow interior dotted with tiny holes. Fontina must be made from unpasteurized milk from a single milking. The wheels are repeatedly washed with brine, then matured in natural caves for three to four months. It possesses a pungent aroma with a mild, nutty flavor and a hint of honey. The flavor intensifies with aging. The milk fat content is around 45%. Authentic Fontina, such as ours, has the green Consortium stamp of the Matterhorn on the bottom of the rind. Red wines without a lot of tannins, such as Pinot Noirs or Burgundies, and white wines with richness and body, such as Alsatian Pinot Gris, Voignier or Chardonnay compliments Fontina's earthiness and touch of sweetness.

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