The last class of Day #1, Le Plasir de Decouvrir (the pleasure of discovery), was all about cheese glorious cheese. Now while I have a familial attachment to all things Italiano (and formaggio is no exception), credit must be given where credit is due and regional French cheese is most deserving of praise. So to Gilles Méreau from Maison Vauron and Ray McVinnie, who orchestrated this cheese tasting, well done indeed.
What a line-up. First, the tasting was delivered in courses based on the origin of the milk. Goat was first. This seemed to be a strange concept to many in attendance who expected strong goat flavours. However, after tasting, there was a clear method to the madness.. It is springtime in France. The milk is obtained from goats feeding on tender spring grass.
Translation: for a fresh unripened pyramid sprinkled with ash there is no better timing and the mini pyramides (Jacquin) were divine indeed.
The second was a small crevassed 'cupcake' of cheese 'Le Maître Seguin' and although slightly underripe, melted into a creamy paste that lingered through layers of delicate cream and mild lactic notes. And the last, the highlight of my weekend was a Sainte Maure de Touraine at a decent stage of ripeness. The sublime interior of this green grey raw milk beauty melted luxuriously. The section closest to the rind already oozing and the slightly firmer interior melted without resistance.
Served with Sancerre (Henri Bourgeois). Words fail me.
The second course, all cows milk cheeses, included some of my favouites. Chaorce, Langres and Munster, in all their pungent complexity, were paired with the wine of the region, Gewurztraminer (Albert Mann). Now I know, as when I have mentioned this match to a few people before , they always assume the wine to be far too sweet. However, many French varieties finish dry even with all the typical floral and turkish delight, associated sweet aromas wafting out of the glass. With muenster, this wine positively shines! Pungent as typical washed rinds are, I think it is the savoury sticky exterior that complements so well and that sweetish milk, sweet hay thread holding it altogether.
The last course were spicy blues both made from ewes milk. The Onetik Bleu de Basques Brebis had a mild saltiness and zip that was a solid match when paired with the sticky (Pacherenc-du-Vic-Bilh). This wine, with the 'other' cheese (Roquefort) truly illustrated the affinity blue cheese has with sweet wine. My only sadness came from the sight of crumbly piles of the prince of blue cheeses remaining on tasting plates (and in napkins!). Ok, perhaps it isn't everyone's cuppa but this HUGE spicy blue is adorable even though it enjoys contraband notoriety. Anyone willing to give it a fair go, in spite of the pungent aromas, would have pleasantly discovered a beautiful fullness of flavour, a complex yet clean finish and a real revelation in combination with the wine. A near ethereal experience.
To Gilles and Ray, merci beaucoup!