Bleu d’Auvergne – what’s so special about it?

bleu d'auvergne
Bleu d’Auvergne

Bleu d’Auvergne, my go to week-end breakfast blue cheese. With my home made breakfast rolls, farm butter and pour over drip made coffee. I purchase my cheese from a cheese monger, so I am sure it is made from raw milk, or “lait cru” as the French will say. There is a lot of Bleu d’Auvergne made from heat treated milk, thermised or pasteurised that is. The latter being industrial varieties. There are eight farmhouse cheese makers though, so look for them. Some say this is a cows’ milk copy of Roquefort. I don’t agree thinking Bleu de Causses as a better candidate for that title.

Invented by Antoine Roussel?

As we know it today, Bleu d’Auvergne is not an old cheese. Some say it was invented around 1854 by an Antoine Roussel, but that is not all true. The cheese had been there for years, the various farmers around the area making their own variant, and none of the particularly consistent. So the blue mould was in a way living their own life. Having worked at a pharmacy as a youngster he was used to observing processes and the art of preciseness. That’s what he brought home to his family’s farm. He started to experiment how to tame the blue mould that so far had behaved rather randomly in the cheese interior. That again led to a lack of consistency in the cheese. He started out with the mould and observed how it developed on rye bread. Well he could have looked to Roquefort as they had probably done that for a long time already. Sometimes, we have to find out for ourselves, though. That did not help help with the distribution of moulds inside the cheese, which really was the problem.

Bleu d’Auvergne the first pierced cheese?

What the young Antione Roussel found out was that piercing the cheese with a needle made the blue mould grow along that canal, so he created an instrument with many needles and thus creating a cheese interior that was rather well organised. So as far as I know he was the one who introduced the piercing of blue cheeses that has become so common today. He shared his new won knowledge with the other cheese makers in the area, and they adopted it. As such you can say the new Bleu d’Auvergne was born.

The piercing structures the development of the blue mould, that is so, but the mould does not need these oxygen canals to develop as both the Spanish Cabrales and the French Bleu de Termignon and maybe others, are examples of. Even so, most makers of blue cheese today make use of the needles.

What’s so special about it?

Obviously the piercing thing, as the history is told they were the first to use the technique. It has become quite widespread. That’s something.

Bleu d’Auvergne wine pairing

I started out with recommending Bleu d’Auvergen for breakfast with coffee. Apart from that a sweet white wine is the obvious, although there are other sweet wines as well such as Maury and Banyuls from not far away. For a virgin paring try Rhubarb juice or a rhubarb juice blend. And as always, there is black tea. Milk, no sugar for me, but you take yours according to your own preferences.

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L’Ami du Chambertin and Pinot Noir (On the Wild Side)

l'ami du chambertin
L’Ami du Chambertin

The Cheese

L’Ami du Chambertin cannot boast centuries of history as it is a relatively new cheese from a French perspective. Born, or created, in 1950 by Raymond Gaugry at their family dairy just south of Dijon, in Chevrey-Chambertin. Not being a native Burgundian, he came from the Berry province of the Loire and started out as a laitier, it was probably exciting to create something new, although based on long-lived local traditions. L’Ami du Chambertin is an Epoisses style cheese. No doubt. A washed rind cheese, or stinker if you like. Very Burgundian. It is said you can succeed with anything in France, irrespective of your origins, as long as you speak the language. No problem for this newcomer to the area, of course, so perhaps no surprise the vignerons of Chevrey- Chambertin took the cheese to their hearts and loved it, having a good bite of cheese with their own famous wine. And from this immediate love affair emerged the name. It should be said, l’Ami du Chambertin appears in three variants; au lait cru, au lait termisé and au lait pasteurisé. All the same size, about 200 grams and boxed.

The wine

L'Ami du Chambertin
Pinot Noir (On the Wild Side)

The Schatz family took bigger steps. Originally from Trentino in South Tirol, they moved to South Germany and have been involved in viticulture there since 1641. Quite some time that is. Not so for our wine though. Friedrich Schatz wanted to enter the wine business, but somewhere with a better climate than South Germany. His search around various European countries ended in Ronda, Spain in 1982, well 10 kilometres outside the Ronda town. He had to start with learning the language. As a primus motor for the wine farmers in the area they have together succeeded in becoming a qualified area for growing wine, not just the sweet wines as was the tradition, but dry whites, reds and rosés. The winery is organic and bio-dynamic, situated 700 m above sea level secluded between the the Sierra de Grazalema and the Sierra de las Nieves protecting them from the strong eastern and western winds, but with hot days and cool night and a suitable influx of coolness from the Atlantic Ocean.

The red from the Chevrey-Chambertin are bold, rustic Pinots. Not necessarily silky and smooth. Which is a match in heaven for the l’Ami du Chambertin which is a rather bold cheese with opulent flavours, not to speak about the aromas. So the F. Schatz Pinot Noir is a Chevrey-Chambertin in disguise? No I would not say that. The current release 2016 is describes by the bodega as delicate with floral touches of rose petals with spicy hints of pepper and cloves on the nose and with red intense and enveloping fruit. Balsamic, mineral, with a very elegant finish in the mouth.

But, that is the 2016 vintage. There is however another wine that you will not find in their web page. The “Pinot Noir On the Wild Side”. That’s the name. Only available in Norway, a special cuvée bottled for the Norwegian market only, and a limited release – 600 bottles. The 2022 vintage, direct from the stainless steel tank after six months in there. Raw, fresh fruity and rustic with balanced acidity and intense red fruits. A wonderful wine and a match in heaven for the l’Ami du Chambertin which requires just this wine. The only other thing you may need is some country bread.

L'Ami du Chambertin
A Combination made in Heaven


L’Ami du Chambertin (au lait cru) and F. Schatz Pinot Noir 2022 (On the Wild Side). These two together will lift the flavours to a higher unity. Not much more you need for a picnic. A country style bread. And accompanying music, perhaps: “Take a Walk on the Wild Side” by Lou Reed. That’ll be some picnic, I promise.

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Portuguese cheese, a 101 introduction

Portuguese cheese
Portuguese cheese of raw ewes’ milk and bread

Portuguese cheese has a rich history that dates back centuries and is an important part of the country’s culinary tradition. Portugal is known for its diverse range of cheeses, each with its unique flavors and characteristics. Let’s explore the history and some particulars of Portuguese cheese. For me personally, they are a favourite, because they are so good, but also because they are special, different from most other cheeses, but also because they are very rare if at all available here where I live.

The History of Portuguese cheese – in short

The origins of cheese-making in Portugal can be traced back to ancient times. The Romans introduced cheese-making techniques to the region during their occupation. Over time, Portuguese cheese production developed and flourished, influenced by different cultures, techniques, and local ingredients. Cheese in Portuguese is called queijo by the way.

Some particulars

Most of the artisan cheeses produced on the mainland are made using ewe’s milk but there are also some goats’ milk cheeses. The famous cows’ milk cheeses are from the Azores. The ewes’ milk cheeses are oftenmost made using vegetal rennet; cardoon to be specific, while the cows’ milk cheeses from the Azores archipelago is made with animal rennet.

Types of Cheese

Queijo Serra da Estrela: This is one of Portugal’s most famous cheeses, made from raw sheep’s milk. It has a creamy texture and a strong, slightly acidic flavor. This cheese is from the mountainous region in central Portugal, Serra de Estrela is the highest mountain on the mainland. The cheese is made using milk from Bordaleira sheep and is traditionally consumed melted or spooned out of its rind. Bigger than the ewes’ milk cheeses mentioned below.

Queijo de Azeitão: A small, soft cheese made from sheep’s milk. It has a buttery texture and a slightly salty taste. It is often consumed as a spread.

Queijo Serpa: Produced in the Alentejo region, this cheese is made from raw sheep’s milk and has a semi-soft texture. It has a distinctive flavor and aroma.

Queijo de Nisa: Another sheep’s milk cheese, Queijo de Nisa is semi-soft with a smooth texture. It has a mild, slightly salty taste. This cheese along with Azeitão and Serpa are all from the Alentejo region in southern Portugal, renowned for its sheep’s milk cheeses

Sao Jorge: Originating from the Azores islands, Sao Jorge to be specific, this cheese is made from cow’s milk. It has a firm texture and a rich, buttery flavor. The Azores archipelago, particularly the islands of São Jorge and Terceira, is known for its production of cow’s milk cheese. These cheeses have a firm texture and a tangy, slightly spicy flavor.

Portuguese cheese is enjoyed both domestically and internationally, and it is often paired with local wines, fruits, or honey. The country’s cheese-making traditions continue to be celebrated, and new variations and flavors are constantly being explored by local producers.

Suggested pairings

Portuguese cheese and wine pairings can be delightful, as the country produces a wide range of both. Here are a few recommendations for cheese and wine pairings from Portugal.

Queijo Serra da Estrela with Douro Red Wine. The rich and creamy Queijo Serra da Estrela pairs beautifully with a robust red wine from the Douro region. The wine’s structure and tannins complement the cheese’s strong flavors.

Queijo de Azeitão with Moscatel de Setúbal. The soft and buttery Queijo de Azeitão harmonizes well with the sweet and aromatic Moscatel de Setúbal. The cheese’s saltiness contrasts with the wine’s sweetness, creating a delightful balance.

Queijo Serpa with Alentejo Red Wine. The intense and slightly acidic flavors of Queijo Serpa match nicely with a full-bodied red wine from the Alentejo region. Look for wines made from the Trincadeira or Aragonez grape varieties.

São Jorge Cheese with Port Wine. The semi-hard São Jorge cheese pairs wonderfully with a rich and full-bodied Port wine. The cheese’s nutty and slightly spicy flavors match well with the sweetness and complexity of the fortified wine.

Remember, these are just suggestions, and personal preferences may vary. Feel free to explore different combinations and experiment with your own pairings to discover your favorite combinations of Portuguese cheese and wine.

Further reading

For more on Portuguese cheese check out this page.

This post is created partly with the help of Chat OpenAI.

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Graukäse, the alpine cheese specialty from South Tyrol

Graukäse from Italian South Tirol. Photo: Ove Fosså

South Tyrol Graukäse (also known as grey cheese or “formaggio grigio” in Italian) is a type of cheese that originated in the alpine region of South Tyrol, which is located in the northeastern part of Italy and south western part of Austria. The cheese has a long history, with records dating back to the 12th century.

The origins of Graukäse

Originally, graukäse was made by farmers who lived in the mountainous areas of South Tyrol. It was created as a way to preserve milk, which was in abundance during the summer months when cows were milked daily. The cheese was made using skimmed milk and was left to mature for several months in damp, cool conditions. The cheese is acidified using no rennet to make the milk proteins coagulate. Skimmed milk because the cream was used to churn butter.

South Tyrol Graukäse is made using raw cow’s milk, and has a very strong, pungent flavour that can be quite sharp and tangy. The texture of the cheese is firm and crumbly, with small holes throughout. The rind is typically covered in a layer of grey mold (Mucor), which is why the cheese is often referred to as “grey cheese.”

Traditional methods

South Tyrol Graukäse is still produced using traditional methods, and it has been recognised as a protected designation of Origin (PDO) product by the European Union, which, it should be said, applies to the Graukäse made in Austrian South Tyrol. This means that only cheese produced in the South Tyrol region can be called Graukäse. The Italian Graukäse has its own domestic protection and some are also covered by a Slow Food Presidium (Formaggio grigio della Valle Aurina).

A wonderful snack

South Tyrol Graukäse is often enjoyed as a snack or appetizer, and it pairs well with bread, crackers, and cured meats. It is also used in cooking, and it can be grated over pasta or added to soups and stews to add flavor. Overall, South Tyrol Graukäse is a unique and flavorful cheese with a rich history and a distinctive character.

The Norwegian Gammalost

Norwegian Graukäse
Norwegian Gammalost served with farm butter

They are related. Mountain cheeses both, and the farmers made butter of the cream and made cheese from the skimmed milk. Butter was a more valuable commodity that cheese. The only difference is that the Norwegian took it a bit further and made brown cheese from whey that was left over from the cheese making. If it was the vikings who brought the Norwegian Gammalost to the alps or Graukäse back home from their journeys, I do not know. So the next time you are in the alps, ask for Graukäse and ask for Gammalost the next time you are in Norway.

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