Le Tastevin Wine Club - Notes on Cheeses – April 20, 2022

Tonight's cheese and bread comes from Whole Foods in Ann Arbor. In the past cheese offerings with Italian reds with some tannic structure and medium body have had a pairing with a reliable Gouda and a somewhat softer, nuttier flavor. These should be a good paring with our full-bodied reds.

Mitica Fontina Val D'Aosta (raw cow’s milk) is a cheese made with 100% raw cow's milk aged for a minimum of 60 days. Valle d'Aosta, over which towers Mont Blanc and is the source of genuine Fontina, is in the northwest corner of Italy, near the French and Swiss borders. In spite of the very dry summers, these high-altitude pastures provide a wonderful variety of lush, unique grasses upon which graze the cows whose milk gives us Fontina. During the summer the cheese is made at the chalets in the alpine pastures, and in the winter months it’s made in creameries lower down in the valley. Only fresh, raw (unpasteurized) milk from a single milking of Valdostana cows is used to make Fontina. The cheese is made twice every day, and aged for a minimum of three months in natural environments. Each cheesemaker has his own favorite location for ripening his cheeses: caves, grottos, tunnels, even former military bunkers. It’s made in large, 17- to 22-pound wheels, about 4 inches thick, and 18 inches in diameter. Its flavor is due in part to the incredible richly flavored milk it is made from, a natural result of cows feeding on the wide range of grasses and plants on the hillsides of the Italian Alps: flora untouched by chemicals. Fontina is 45% fat and has a thin, creamy brown to terracotta rind that is lightly oiled and uneven. The cheese is smooth and buttery, almost spreadable, when young. As the cheese matures, it becomes darker and much drier. The older cheese develops an earthly but fruity aroma and a mellow flavor that’s both nutty and fruity. Look also for the name of the local cooperative stenciled on the rind of each authentic Fontina cheese (ours is Mitica).

Clarina Gouda (pasteurized cow’s milk) is an 18-month aged cheese from Holland. This cheese is medium hard, slaty, and a little nutty. Salt crystals throughout. Best tasted in thin slices when it has warmed to just under room temperature.

Page last updated: May 7, 2024 (EB)

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