Le Tastevin Wine Club - Notes on Cheeses – April 15, 2015

Tonight's cheese and baguettes are from Whole Foods.

Manchego from El Trigal, Spain, sheep's milk, firm aged 6 months is the classic pairing with a full-bodied red wine. The cheese comes from La Mancha and was so named during the Moorish conquest of Spain in the Middle Ages. Cervantes described it as "harder than if it had been made of sand and lime," although our version aged 6 months is not that hard. Wheels receive a mininmum of two monhts aging but the flavor becomes more intense and concentrated as the cheese becomes harder with aging. Young Manchego is mild, even bland, while aged ones develop depth of flavor and a pleasant bite and underlying sweetness characteristic of the finest sheep's milk cheeses. With age the cheese becomes more brittle with briney nuttiness and increasing sharpness. The darker the rind, the older the cheese. Most Manchego in the US is aged 6 to 12 months, and rubbed with olive oil. Manchego is one of the world's best known cheeses.

Catamount Hills Cheddar from Cabot Creamery, Vermont, is owned and operated by a cooperative of farmers and has been making award winning cheddar cheese since 1919. There are many types of cheddar and Le Tastevin has had many English Bandaged Cheddars from Neal's Yard over the years. While Cabot does make a bandaged cheddar cheese, most Vermont cheddars are made into large blocks after the cheese is cheddared (when the milk sugars known as whey is removed from the curds.) Cabot claims their cheddaring process renders the cheese free of all lactose (defined as 1%.) By its very nature, most cheese is low in lactose and the older, harder cheeses have the least lactose. Tonight's cheddar is a mild and creamy, buttery style with overtones of Parmesan. Aging is the only difference between mild and sharp cheddar. The longer the cheese is aged the sharper it becomes. Our mild cheddar was aged about 4 months whereas sharp cheddars can be aged as much as two years. The yellow color of most cheddars is due to an additive but Vermont cheeses do not contain color additives.

Uneikass Parrano, a cow's milk cheese from the Netherlands, is a cross between Gouda and Parmesan. It has a mild and nutty taste, combining salty and sweet flavors, and has a semi firm texture and a smooth, golden color. Made from pasteurized milk, Parrano is produced in 20 lb. wheels, and is aged for 5 months, unlike most Gouda, which are aged for years: Combining the flavor of aged Parmesan with a pliant texture, it is marketed as an Italianstyle cheese. (It is advertised as "a Dutch cheese that thinks it is Italian.") However Parrano is technically Gouda cheese with a more pronounced flavor. It is a versatile cheese, which goes with many fruity wines including Pinot Noirs. Parrano won a gold medal at the 2006 World Championship Cheese Contest in Madison, Wisconsin for best in Class Gouda", and was first runner up for the World Champion Cheese Title.

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