For my part, I think it comes a lot of good from Beaujolais. Most famous are probably the wines and I definitely have a taste for them, even if I stay away from Beaujolais Nouveau. The hysterical times are over. But it was fun. Recently, however, I have had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with chèvre from Beaujolais. So if most beaujolais wines, but not all of them, are light and fruity, then in return they are chèvres from the region that has come my way, not at all. On the contrary. Quite striking. Even though the first cheese I got was so rammed that all the hair on me stood straight out, and I have tasted a little of each, it went in return to the affineur, and a new supply was sent. Milder and in good condition, but with a clear and distinct message that there is character.
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.
I called on one of my favorite cheese mongers this last Saturday. A sunny day, by the way. It’s been rather cold and wet lately so the warming sun was very welcome. That’s where the theme for this blog post turned up; a goat and a ewe.
It so happened they had announced a soft ewe’s milk cheese called Lou Rocaillou that was new to me. Most of the ewe milk cheeses are either semi firm or even on the firm side, so a soft one was especially tempting. Always eager to try out new cheeses stuff of course, I called on them to shop my piece.
From a village called Hures-la-Parade in the Department of Lozère; that’s the Midi-Pyrenées.
Le Pisé du Lot
As I was there, scanning the cheese counter, I spotted a goat milk cheese from the south west of France, Lachapelle Auzac in the department of Lot right to the east of Bordeaux. New to me this one as well. Chèvre. There is a multitude of different Chèvres in France, so you’re lucky if you know them all. I certainly do not. Yet, at least. Not that it is a goal, even though I am vey fond of this style. This Chèvre is called Le Pisé du Lot. Disc formed and from raw milk.
Soft, but mature
Both of them are matured for two weeks, giving them a little more strength than the very fresh ones. The ewe milk cheese being milder than the Chèvre, as always. I think especially the Chèvre has had a few weeks shelf life. transport and so on because it gave a burning impression on both sides of the tongue. Typical for rathe mature Chèvre. As long as it’s not too intense it is okay.
Two rather rare and fine soft cheeses that I am glad I came across. A goat and a ewe.
Not necessarily the same wine with these two. For Le Pisé du Lot I would recommend a dry white Bordeaux, from Entre-deux-Mers. If you want to step up the quality and the price; look for an AOC Pessac-Léognan. The Lou Rocaillou comes from an area further south east and I suggest you choose a local wine. From the Languedoc-Roussillon region. Dry this one as well. For both of them, try to avoid too much oak as most wines from these regions have been kept a while in barrels. At least check the oak is well integrated.