Le Tastevin Wine Club - Notes on Cheeses – January 03, 2024

The cheeses and salami are from York Food and Drink, the bread from Plum Market in Ann Arbor. The cheese tonight was selected as they should pair nicely with assertive, acidic and tannic Tuscan wines. (Note: tonight's tasting was, at the last minute, changed to wines of Piedmont). Tonight's alternate protein source is Salami Abruzzese, an Italian-inspired salami handcrafted in western New York. Abruzzese salami incorporates a hint of fennel and garlic.

Piave is made from a cooperative dairy in the province of Belluno, north of Venice, where farmers pool their milk and make the cheese jointly. It is a relatively recent additon to Italy's cheese lineup, debuting in 1960, but is now the area's best-selling cheese. Piave is a full-favored cheese similar to, but lighter, younger and milder, than Parmigiano-Reggiano. Piave is sold in three stages: fresco (fresh) - 20-60 days old; mezzano (semi-aged) - 60-180 days; and vecchio (aged) - >180 days. Our version is the vecchio production by Lattebusche that has been aged 12 months. Piave shows the beginnings of crystallization but is not as hard and crumbly or as salty as Parmigiano. Piave has an affinity for crusty bread and both red and white wine, going best with medium- and full-bodied red wines.

Pecorino Toscano (pasteurized sheep's milk) is a firm cheese from Tuscany and the neighboring communities of Umbria and Latium that, since 1996, has enjoyed protected origin status (PDO) in Italy. This 6-12 month aged version is firm, rich, mushroomy and nutty, with a lingering finish hinting of butterscotch. It is less salty than similar sheep's cheeses like Pecorino Romano. Made in small, dense round wheels, Pecorino Toscano is often eaten as a table cheese. This cheese should also pair well with tonight's wines.

And tonight's surprise treat is Brillat-Savarin, which happened to be available at the store. Normally I would pair this with a different wine, such as our Burgundy or Alsatian wines, it was too delicious to pass up. It was created c. 1890 as "Excelsior" or "Délice des gourmets" ("Gourmets' delight") by the Dubuc family, near Forges-les-Eaux (Seine-Maritime). Cheese-maker Henri Androuët renamed it in the 1930s, as an homage to 18th-century French gourmet and political figure Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. Brillat-Savarin is produced all year round mainly in Burgundy. It comes in 12–13 cm (4.7–5.1 in) wheels and approximately 4 cm thick, and is matured for one to two weeks in dry cellar. It is a triple cream soft-ripened cheese that is luscious, creamy and faintly sour that should be enjoyed at room temperature. Simply fabulous!

Page last updated: January 4, 2024 (EB)