Le Tastevin Wine Club - Notes on Cheeses – October 19, 2016

Without knowing in advance the cepage of the Italian wines of the evening, there was a challenge in trying to pair tonights wines with the cheeses. So the evening's cheese were meant to be safe bets. The cheeses were from Whole Foods in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the breads and prosciutto from Zingerman’s bakery.

Taleggio (pasteurized cow’s milk) is a semi-soft table cheese produced predominately in Lombardy from the Taleggio Valley near Bergamo. Variations of this cheese are recorded from Roman times, more recently its name has changed from “Stracchino quadro di Milano”, then “Stracchino quadro di Taleggio” (1914) and finally just Taleggio (1920s). It has a history of being used for bartering. Produced to preserve left-over milk from home consumption, it was hand-made and aged in local caves. First heated, fermented milk and animal rennet are added. After coagulation, the curd is broken, left to rest, then placed in metal molds to remove any excess whey. The wheels are then placed in warm and humid rooms, often turned, then removed from the molds for salting by hand or in brine. The cheese is aged for about 40 days in traditional caves or aging rooms with similar temperature and humidity. During aging, the wheels are often cleaned of excess molt and sponged with water and salt, giving them their characteristic rosy color. Taleggio also pairs well with fruit or honey. The rind does not need to be removed, just cleaned lightly. It melts easily and can be used in pasta dishes, pizzas, etc.

Pecorino Toscano Stagionato (sheep’s milk) is a buttery and nutty cheese, almost always rich and concentrated. “Pecorino” can refer to any cheese made with sheep’s milk, and many of Italy’s localities produce and consume their own versions, sometimes referred to as cacio, a holdover from pre-consortium and EEC days. Pecorino Toscano DOP is specifically made in Tuscany, Lazio and Umbria, and just as with wine, each micro-region within the DOP zone lends its own characteristics through its individual terroir. It may be rindless or treated with any number of products (ours with olive oil) as it ages to further enhance the flavor of the cheese. It may be aged in grape must, wrapped in walnut or chestnut leaves, or coated in black ash from burned olive wood. Truffles or peperoncino are sometimes added to the paste before the cheese is shaped. A young pecorino is pale in color, yields easily to the knife, and has an accessible tang with a grassy, flowery flavor and aroma. Older pecorinos are aged around six months or more, are very firm and burnished on the outside, with an internal hue ranging from ivory to deep gold. It develops a deeply nutty flavor and creamy-rich mouth feel. Our cheese is aged for an additional three to four months. Pecorino Toscano Stagionato DOP is created from locally collected sheep's milk during September and June. As it ages, the cheese loses its milky white color and takes on a hay-colored, ivory hue. The sweet, silken texture of the original cheese slowly gives way to a sharp, zesty flavor with a brittle texture.

Pleasant Ridge Reserve Gruyere (raw cow’s milk) substitutes for a suitable Grana Padano that I couldn’t find. This is an artesian cheese made in Wisconsin from grass-fed cows. This cheese is loosely based on a French Beaufort. This creamery is an oft-awarded American creamery, with this cheese having won Best of Show of ACS’s competitions three times. It was founded by two couples (Mike and Carol Gingrich, and Dan and Jeanne Patenaude) in the Uplands Region of Wisconsin. This cheese has a firm creamy texture, and is sweetly nutty with a moderate crystalline crunch. This aged (+6 months) gruyere adds a caramel taste with a noticeable tart fruitiness.




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