Le Tastevin Wine Club - Notes on Cheeses – January 11, 2017

Tonight's cheese and baguettes are from Whole Foods. These cheeses - d'Affinois, Emmentaler and Comté - are club favorites that should pair nicely with tonight's dry-to-sweet Riesling as well as Pinot Noir.

Affinois3Fromage d'Affinois - a French double-crème, soft-ripened cheese made from cow's-milk by the Fromagerie Guilloteau. In 1981, Jean-Claude Guilloteau took over a small cheese factory in Villemoirieu. He then called on the inventor of ultrafiltration, who applied his innovation on Guillauteau cheeses. In 1983, Fromagerie Guilloteau was founded in Pélussin and, in the same year, presented its first product baptized as cheese "Pavé d'Affinois", which takes its name from its cubic form. Though similar in production, appearance and flavor of Brie, it isn't! 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 qualifies 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 mushroomy earthiness found in Brie, but is creamier and softer, fabulously spread on a fresh baguette or a great cracker. It is ideal with both a dry and sweet German Riesling as well as a fruity Pinot Noir. Currently, there is a FdA with truffels; although delicious, it wouldn't go well with tonight's wines.

Emmentaler Cave Kaltbach - This Swiss cheese is a pasteurized cow's milk product aged in the sandstone caves of Kaltbach. Only the best wheels of Emmi Roth's Lucerne Emmentaler are selected for this cheese. An unmistakable blackish brown rind forms around the 200 pound wheel of Emmentaler during the cave-aging process, while the fruity and nutty flavors intensify with notable crystals lending a unique texture. The best known of the Swiss cheeses, Emmentaler cheese is famous for its open texture or 'eyes'. However, Kaltbach Emmentaler AOP is more than just the characteristic holes. It is about the hallmark black-brown patina that develops as the cheese matures for 3 months in the cheese dairy and for more than 300 days in the caves. During this maturation process, white crystals and drops of water are formed from the cheese, known as "tears of joy". The cave maturation results in a tangy, nutty flavour and a crumbly, slightly crystalline texture, typical of the fine Swiss classic from the caves. Our cheese is aged for 12 months; there is a 15-month cheese sold, but I thought that one had lost some of the tanginess and sublte flavors of the 12-month cheese.

Comté (com-TAY) - one of the world's greatest cheeses, is made in the Jura Mountains of eastern France, near Switzerland. It is a firm unpasterurized cheese from the milk of Montbeliard cows grazing on summer alpine grass. The rind is considered inedible. Before it can be sold it must pass an evaluation to get the Comte label, and must receive a grade of 12 (out of 20). The wheels average 90 pounds (that is 140 gallons of milk) and are aged up to 2 years. The color darkens with age (ours was aged about 1 year), and ranges from ivory to gold. Like Swiss Gruyère (gree-AIR), Comté has aromas of hazelnut and butter, and is dotted with "eyes", although the flavor is sweeter and mellower, and more intense than its Swiss cousins. Comté is a versatile cheese, marvelous when melted, and works well with German Rieslings as well as being able to soften the edge on big red wines, like Tuscans, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and other Rhônes and Burgundies.

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