Le Tastevin Wine Club - Notes on Cheeses - April 21, 2010

Tonight's cheeses are from the Plum Market on Orchard Lake Road. I have found that despite their higher prices they sell some of the harder-to-find, hand-made artisan cheeses. The French "epi" loaves are once again from The Give Thanks Bakery in Rochester.

Montgomery's Farmhouse Cheddar - regularly labeled the "World's Greatest Cheddar" and is the one all others are measured against. Most cheeses sold under the name of cheddar don't deserve the name. Over 300 years ago, when Montgomery's was first made, Britain never legally protected or defined the term "cheddar cheese." These rare, cloth-bound, raw-milk cheeses can be counted on the fingers of one hand: Montgomery's, Keens, Lincolnshire Poacher, Reades, and Westcombe's. Several American cheddars - Fiscalini Bandaged Cheddar from Modesto, California, and Grafton Village and Shelburne Farms from Vermont - are considered to be comparable to English Cheddars. The fact sheet about this great cheese is from Neal's Yard Dairy in London. Made by Jamie Montgomery from sweet Fresian cow's milk, each wheel is aged in cloth and brushed with lard every few days, resulting in a firm, crumbly paste that slowly releases its flavor of dried fig and almond. The veins in the cheese are not like the veins in blue cheese, but are from the cheese-making process. Slightly sharp with just enough fat and salt, it is great match for most full-bodied wines, be they from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhône or New World. Enjoy this artisan, hand-made two year aged cheese, one of the world's great cheeses.

Raclette - a versatile mild cheese from the mountains of Savoie and is similar to other cheeses from that area such as Morbier. Like Morbier, it is a washed-rind cheese accounting for its somewhat pungent aroma. Raclette is the top-selling cheese in France and Switzerland, most likely due to its popularity when milted over food. (Think of enjoying a Croque Monsieur sandwich in the café's of Paris with a glass of red wine!). In the United States it is the cheese normally used in fondues. Heating releases the flavor of this cheese although on a cheese plate it goes well with fruity whites and lush red Burgundy and Merlot-based wines due to the cheese's mild taste. In France, most Raclettes are raw cheeses, but in Switzerland they are pasteurized. Ours is a French pasteurized bersion since raw Raclette is harder to find due to strict American regulation of raw cheeses. The French word "racler" means to scrape, as Alpine cheesemakers originally made their meals by scraping this cheese off rocks in their smoldering fires.

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