Le Tastevin Wine Club - Notes on Cheeses – April 25, 2018

Tonight's cheese and baguettes are from Whole Foods. The pairing is a blast from the past, an ode to the wonderful job that Arnie has done in pairing cheese with past Burgundy tastings.

Raclette (2010) is a versatile mild cheese (especially melted over food or with fondue) 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. 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 The French word "racler" means to scrape, as Alpine cheesemakers originally made their meals by scraping this cheese off rocks in their smoldering fires.

Pecorino Toscano (2012) is an Italian sheep’s milk firm cheese, aged over 6 months, with the artisan version rubbed in extra virgin olive oil. Pecora is the Italian word for sheep; Pecorino is the name for cheese from sheep milk. There are hundreds of types of Pecorinos all over central and southern Italy, and they are roughly divided into major regional categories: Romano, Toscano, Sardo, and Siciiano to name a few. Pecorino Toscano is the tops! Young Toscano (3 weeks) is a pale rindless wheel which bears little resemblance to our aged Stagionato. To make an aged Stagionato, the curd is cut smaller, to release more whey. The wheels are then pressed to firm them and brined or salt dried. As the wheels ripen, they are rubbed with extra-virgin olive oil prior to and during aging to encourage rind development, and to inhibit the growth of undesirable mold and bacteria. Consumed young, it is best with white wines. Aged Toscano is rough, crumbly and rugged with maturity. Aged for four to twelve months, it develops a sheepy, nutty, olivey edge and a slight degree of sharpness with a mild peppery finish. Like all great sheep milk's cheese, its flavor can become intense and savory with age, but retaining an underlying sweetness and mellowness. The hard rind is considered inedible. Aged Pecorino Toscano pairs best with more focused red wines such as Barberas, Merlots, Sangioveses, and Burgundies.

Taleggio (2009) is one of Italy's few washed rind cheeses. Welcome to stinky cheese 101. It is made from raw cow's milk from the region of Lombady, aged at least 60 days to allow it to be sold in the United States, and was quite popular in Roman times as evidenced by its repeated references in the works of Cicero, Pliny and Cato. Taleggio has a thin, golden-orange crust with a greyish bloom and a strong, pungent smell typical of cheeses repeatedly washed with brine. Under the rind is a semisoft, creamy cheese with a surprisingly gentle, buttery flavor. The taste is fruity and slightly salty and tangy, becoming increasingly full-flavored, beefy and earthy as it ages. Taleggio is Northern Italy's best-kept secret and is considered the most refined and sophisticated of all Italian cheeses. It goes well with many fruity, lighter wines, both reds and whites.

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