So you think you’ve been to Provence? Probably not. Most travelers to this region have only been to the Var or Alpes-Maritimes regions. The latter is where Nice, Cannes and St. Tropez are, to name a few hotspots. But Banon is in Provence. Provence is the back country to Var and the coast; Côte d’Azur. Up in the beautiful hills and mountainious landscape that you find a couple of hours’ drive inland from the coast.
Here we’re back to small farms, picturesque villages with steep narrow streets, bakery, butcher, and a local market for everything vegetables, cheese and other local stuff. Café where people meet for a glass of pastis and a game of boule in the shades of the old, huge trees. Far from the busy atmosphere along the coast.
From this area hails the Chèvre named Banon. Comes in both an industrial and farmstead variety and I find it natural to choose the latter. When I say hail, it is because the cheese can be traced back to Roman times which is quite a while.
Look for the special wrapping
Characteristically clothed in chestnut leaves and wrapped up with a wisp of natural raffia. Not of much practical use today, but more to make the cheese stand out from the crowd, I would believe.
The Banon from Vanessa and François Masto in Simiane-la-Rotonde is of course made from raw milk as all Banon has to be, according to the AOP rules. This particular farm is also certified organic, and so is the cheese. It is not very strong in taste, but there are milder Chèvres. It might get somewhat opulent if it’s stored for a while, so I would say it is best enjoyed fresh.
It has a washed rind, using local Marc and is stored for a couple of weeks to mature. Texture is creamy, color of the paste is white. Woody and nutty taste with a gentle sign of goat in the background.
Local wine; a rosé from Provence or even a crisp white. If you want something sweeter you could try a Jurançon.
Banon is also the cheese used for the local oddity; Fromage Fort du Mont Ventoux. Not for the faint hearted, though.