Cheese and Wine

Beautiful Bleu de Termignon – how it all started?

bleu de termignon
Bleu de Termignon

Have you ever tasted Bleu de Termignon? If not you should seriously consider doing that. It will be a kind blue cheese educational journey. It is a real, natural blue cheese made at a few farms rather high up in the mountains of Savoie. Within the boundaries of the Vanoise national park between the valleys of Tarentaise and Maurienne. Beautiful area. But what’s so special about Bleu de Termignon?

bleu de termignon
Bleu de Termignon, the other side.

Bleu de Termignon – an original?

Although running the risk of repeating myself and become boring I have to remind you about André Simon in Cheeses of the World from 1960 where he says: “Blue Cheshire is not made, it happens.” That’s exactly the point which fascinates me a lot. This is one of the issues that makes cheese so interesting; biology, nature and living life. Bleu de Termignon is a blue cheese where nature still decides the outcome. You surely remember the story about Charlemagne, penned by Notker the Stammererer, aka Notker Balbulus.

Also read: Blue Cheese isn’t made – it just happens

From beautiful Savoie

Bleu de Termignon hails as it is from the mountainous Savoie region in eastern France. There are just four small farms making it from June through September every year. The process is not like other cheese making processes, but not going further into that part of it. However, they mix fresh curd with curd made to days earlier. Bind it with cloth and puts it into moulds. Removes it more or less regularly from the mould to change cloth before it is set aside to wait for nature getting to work. Or not. The outcome is not at all always predictable. There is no blue culture added, Penicillium Glaucum is present on the grass and flowers and herbs the cattle feed on. No needles to give the moulds air to breathe. I have been told the blue moulds do not need all that much oxygen to survive anyway, so I don’t know if the needles are more a habit than a need. Apart from Bleu de Termignon, Spanish Cabrales is also an exception from the rule.

A cheese to taste?

As said, this is about education. If you enjoy blue cheese at all it is a must to have tasted Bleu de Termignon. If you dare not go any further that the pasteurised industrial varieties you’ll find in any supermarket, do not spend neither time nor money on this cheese. Waste.

Wherever you find yourself in the blue cheese landscape, you should know that this cheese is different from any other blue cheese you have tasted. Bleu de Termignon is probably also showcasing how far we have moved away from the original. It might just be you may have a blue cheese without any bluing. In that case you’re fooled by nature and you have to try one more time. Well, most of us buy a piece from a cheesemonger which gives us the opportunity to check if the cheese is blue or not. Texture is firm and crumbly. The firmness might remind you of an alpine cheese, but that’s about all. Perhaps closer if there are no bluing at all. The rind is also well worth a close look. Does not look very edible, so I advice you not to try.

Tasting notes says a touch of bitterness, especially just beneath the rind. Savoury, grass and herbs. Meaty and some barnyard. Acidity. Did I loose you now? Not very uncommon cheese tasting notes this. Complex flavours that sit long in your mouth. If cheese is something that you care for, this is a cheese you have to taste before you die. No less.

To drink

Perhaps something unorthodox, just as the cheese itself? A Chinon blanc from the Loire. Move up the price scale. If you’re in for something sweet, try a red sweet on the Tannat grape from the Madiran region of France.

Keen’s Farmhouse Cheddar

Keen’s Farmhouse Cheddar is representing the gold standard of Cheddar. This standard has of course changed over the centuries, but has kept pretty stable for the best part of the last 70 years or so. How a Cheddar taste, or any other cheese for that matter, is not something that change overnight, but every now and then innovations occur, changing flavour or texture a tiny little bit. Innovations have happened, enough to mention the names Edith Cannon and Joseph Harding who each in their own way laid some of the foundations for today’s Cheddar.

keen's farmhouse Cheddar
Keen’s Farmhouse Cheddar

Brie de Meaux – tried it young?

Anything like a good Brie? Got to be a mature Brie de Meaux. King of Cheeses and the Kings’ Cheese as it was so lyrically described after the Congress of Vienna in 1815. The French statesman Talleyrand had a load of Brie de Meaux shipped to Vienna and served during one of the dinners to smooth the negotiations. Or it could just be he was home sick and some French cheese would ease his yearning desire to go home. But the cheese became a success at the dinner and wicked tongues have it the French escaped the negotiations without being too seriously wounded. Could be. I am Norwegian and we want our Brie de Meaux or any of the many wannabes, well matured. What about you? And what is best?

brie de meaux
Young Brie de Meaux, like the French prefers it.

Brie de Meaux the French way

Norwegians and the French are definite opposites in many ways, but also when it comes to how we prefer our Brie. We want it well matured while the French want it rather fresh. Fresh means about four weeks old; that’s the minimum maturing time for a Brie de Meaux. But of course, it might be older.

I have to admit that I usually have had my Brie rather mature. And with a fascination for the farmyard aromas and flavours it develops with time. Which again some find a bit too opulent. Well, then my recommendation is to look for a younger version. The difference between young and mature is easily detected, just look for the somewhat lighter and firmer core as shown on the picture above.


Dairy and fine acidity

There is a huge difference between a young and a mature Brie de Meaux. Flavours of milk and a fine acidity. Nothing like farmyard at all. Even though I quite like the mature version, I think this young cheese was very refreshing and will choose it when I find it. More common in France than here, I suppose.

Not just young Brie in France

As it is, they don’t just eat young Brie in France. There is something called Brie Noir, which, as the name indicates, is rather on the dark side. Matured for at least eight months. I’ve never tasted it, but would love to. The French have it for breakfast dipping it in their café au lait. And with a touch of prejudice, a Gauloises as well.

To drink

Brie de Meaux pairs well with a red wine. Preferably from Burgundy, but not necessarily. Not on the heavy side though, no Parker pleaser. Otherwise, Champagne of course. Mature.

Cabrales – the very best of the Blues?

Quite a few would say that Queso Cabrales, or just Cabrales which is most commonly used, is the world’s best blue cheese. From the northern foothills of the Picos de Europa mountains in Asturias, Spain. Some would of course fiercely go against that. So be it. What is indisputable though; not that many have tasted it. If you are new to the cheese world, this is not a place to start. Personally I am not all that concerned with a cheese being the best in the world or not. I am concerned with the use of raw milk and a cheese being made by artisan cheese makers. A real cheese. And what is good or tasteful? Varies between people. Under any circumstance, this is a cheese that will challenge your taste buds.

Queso Cabrales from Asturias in Spania.

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