Le Tastevin Wine Club - Notes on Cheeses – September 12, 2018

Tonight’s cheeses and bread come from Whole Foods. Nebbiolo from northern Italy exhibits medium-body, dry and medium tannic structure with notes of blackberry, cherry, truffle and tar, among other sensations, that linger on the palate. The cheeses tonight have a nutty, salty attack: Fontina and Pecorino.

Fontina (unpasteurized cow’s milk) is a classic Italian cheese made in the Aosta Valley since the 12th century. There are many Fontina cheeses made with alternative names such as "Fontinella", "Fontal", and "Fontella" but the Italian Fontina, Fontina Val d'Aosta, identified by a Consorzio (Consortium) stamp is the original and most famous. The other versions are much milder than the original Fontina. Italian Fontina has a natural (non-edible) rind that turns tan to orange-brown with aging. It is traditionally made from unpasteurized milk of the Valdaostan Red Spotted cows grazing on the plains of Aosta Valley. The texture and flavor of Fontina depend on how long it has been aged. The texture can vary from semi-soft to firm and the flavors from mild and rich to more robust and overpowering. Usually, fontina is aged for 90 days. The interior of is pale cream in color and riddled with holes known as "eyes". With a fat content of 45%, the cheese is very rich and creamy which gets nuttier with aging. This versatile cheese can be used to make fondues, and similar Italian dishes.

Pecorino is a term used to define Italian cheeses made from 100% sheep’s milk. Of the four Pecorino cheeses that have received Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status under European Union law, Pecorino Romano is one of the most ancient types of cheese as well as the most famous outside of Italy. This particular Pecorino Romano, from whole sheep’s milk is made by Sini Fulvi, one of the few remaining pecorinos to be made in the countryside outside of Rome in Nepi, the cheese’s traditional origin (hence the Romano). All varieties differ from each other, depending on how much they have aged. As the name suggests, the history of Pecorino Romano dates to the Roman times when it was a part of the staple diet of soldiers at war. The cheese is made using only traditional methods (Roman authors, including Varro, Pliny the Elder, Hippocrates and Columella wrote about the cheese & its production technique): dry-salted by hand, the wheels get a salting numerous times, to deliver a marvelous taste and nutty aroma. As lamb’s rennet is used, it is not vegetarian. Its lengthy aging time from eight to 12 months results in a dry and granular texture and a strong taste, and coated with a black wax. When young, the cheese has a soft and rubbery texture with sweet and aromatic flavor. The flavor becomes sharper and smokier when aged for eight months or longer.

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