Le Tastevin Wine Club - Notes on Cheeses – November 16, 2016

Tonight's cheese and baguettes are from Whole Foods. One of these firm cheeses were made from pasteurized cow's milk, and is a club favorite, and the others are softer.

Fourme d'Ambert - one of France's oldest cheese, it is made from raw cow's milk from the AOC-designated Auvergne region of France, with a distinct, narrow cylindrical shape. This is a semi-hard cheese inoculated with Penicillium roqueforti spores (like the Roquefort we had at the September 2016 tasting) and aged for at least 28 days. The cows, who need a minimum of 150 outside-grazing days, spent their time on land between 2,000 and 5,000 feet in altitude. Today, the tradition Jasseries summer pastures are hardly used anymore, but the milk is collected by a small number of rather large creameries who determine the cheese’s designation as a fromage laitier, a factory-made cheese. Even so, the entire set of rules still apply: the feed for the animals must come from the designated AOP area, cannot contain any GM products and, importantly, the milk has to be raw, not pasteurized. The cheese is marketed after ripening at least 28 days, but a longer period is not uncommon. Some 20 liters of milk, a little more than 5 gallons, go into a Fourme (form), and the shape is always the same: a cylinder 19 centimeters (7.5 inches) in height and 13 centimers (5 inches) in diameter. It is sold usually wrapped in foil. The rind is not really edible, but it is very thin A bit creamier than a Danish Blue.

Hervé Mons Camembert - pasteurized cow's milk. French Camembert with AOC (appellation d'origine controlee, or name protected) status is unavailable in this country because it is made with raw milk and not aged long enough - at least 60 days - to comply with American law. The pasteurized-milk Camemberts often don't have the big, mushroom fragrance of the real thing, and they rarely mature properly, softening progressively from the outside in. Supposedly this is different, produced by the respected Hervé Mons, a French affineur who buys young cheeses directly from producers and finishes ripening them in his own cellars. Mons spent more than a year working with a French producer to develop a superior pasteurized-milk version and market it to Whole Foods. Mons and the Seattle importer had to figure out when to ship the cheese so that it would survive the long journey and arrive ripe at American cheese counters. At 15 days old, it leaves the dairy and travels from Normandy to the port of Le Havre, where it may have to wait on paperwork to clear. Then it heads for New Jersey, a trip of two weeks. There it may have to hang out for days until an FDA inspector stamps the documents, and finally distributed throughout the USA. The bloomy rind should have golden striations and, underneath, a uniformly supple interior with a mushroom aroma. Hints of garlic and brett, this cheese has a healthy salt attack.

Unikaas Reserve Aged Gouda - a traditional cow's milk Gouda (pronounced Howda) from the Netherlands. Uniekaas is the country's largest cheese producer. but they still hand make several Artisanal cheeses such as this reserve. Our Gouda tonight has been aged 18 months, which makes it not as hard and crumbly as the 3-5 year aged versions. This is a firm, textured Gouda with a mild salt flavor and a perfect hazelnut finish. As Gouda ages it gains a deep golden color with hints of the flavor of butterscotch, and properly aged it is grainy, salty, tangy and is somewhat sharp with a long finish. Gouda pairs best with red wines having a toasty, raisiny quality such as the Châteauneuf-du-Papeof tonight's tasting and merlot-based wines.

    "If you like a firm, dense, crystalline almost crumbly cheese with deep mouthwatering flavors and a lingering aftertaste, this is the one for you" (Cheese: A Connoisseur's Guide).

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