Exploring the Cheeses of Southwestern France
In the spotlight right now at the Glen Rock Bottle King we are showcasing cheeses from the South West of France! Now when this region is discussed, it is usually in reference to the extensive collection of wines that the area is famous for. Having upwards of 40,000 acres of vineyards, the area stretches from the Bordeaux region through the Pyrenees Mountains. The beautiful city of Toulouse, which is the capitol of Southwestern France department of Haute-Garonne and the Midi-Pyrenees region, is located on the Eastern border of the area. It is the ideal location for growing lush vegetation with a diverse landscape of mountains, plateaus, rivers, and lakes. Furthermore, the region tends to be cool and rainy during the winters and springs while the summers and autumns are warm and exceptionally sunny making it the perfect climate for cultivating the land. The diverse landscape and climate really gives the food and wine from the South West of France it’s own unique signature that is unlike anywhere else, even throughout the rest of the country.
Let us first begin our exploration of Southwestern French cheeses with a good old favorite of the Vineyard Market, Societe Roquefort. This is one of our most popular blue cheeses, which hails from this region. Nicknamed the “King of Cheese” by an 18th-Century French philosopher Denis Diderot, Roquefort is a unique blue made from raw sheep’s milk. If the legend behind this blue doesn’t move you, the intense, creamy flavor certainly will have you coming back for more. Roquefort is extremely versatile- perfect as a table cheese, mixed in a salad, or used in your favorite cheesy recipe. I suggest pairing with a Trappist ale to compliment the rich and vibrant flavors of the Roquefort.
Another fan favorite here at the store is the Istara Ossau-Itaty. From the Northern Basque Country, this is an irresistible sheep’s milk cheese that is aged for at least 6 months. The cheese has a semi-firm body and a hard outer rind with a pretty complex flavor that is delicate but has hints of nuttiness and sweetness throughout. It has a pleasant earthy aroma and creamy texture. Perfect with fruity, full-bodied red wines.
Also from Istara is another popular sheep’s milk cheese, the P’tit Basque. As the name suggests, the cheese is produced in the Basque region of Southwest France in the Pyrenees Mountains. This is one of my go-to cheeses when I am looking for something to impress my friends with because of it’s unique look and approachable taste. The cheese comes in a cylinder shape with basket-weave markings around the rind, similar to the markings of a manchego, giving it a traditional old-world feel. This is not an assertive cheese and is meant to have a subtle, almost floral, flavor and aroma. P’tit Basque is hand-crafted from start to finish and the amount of labor that is put into this cheese is reflected by the superior quality that is produced. I prefer to pair the P’tit Basque with a dry white wine.
Three new cheeses to our store will be making their debut this weekend as part of this special feature: Valbreso Feta, Jean Faup Bethmale Vache, and Jean Faup Bethmale Chevre. Valbreso Feta is a rich sheep’s milk feta cheese produced from the same milk that is used in Roquefort. Only slightly salty, this feta has a tanginess and creaminess all it’s own. Traditionally feta is eaten as a table cheese but you can make a refreshing appetizer by crumbling it up on top of juicy pieces of watermelon. It makes a tasty summer treat alongside a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc.
The Jean Faup Bethmale cheeses are a the perfect fit for our collection here in Glen Rock. The name comes from the Bethmale Valley where the cheese is produced. The Jean Faup creamery dates back five generations of skilled craftsmen that maintain the highest level of care, quality, and tradition in the making of their cheese. Both Bethmale cheeses are made with raw milk in a tome style. The Bethmale Vache is considered one of the most well-known cow’s milk cheese of the Pyrenees region. It is typically aged for 2-3 months where it is washed and turned daily. It tends to be on the milder side in comparison to other cheeses of the region with a light, earthy mushroom flavor. The Bethmale Chevre is a washed goat’s milk cheese that is made seasonally. It tends to have more of a sweetness and nuttiness over the vache.
Please join us this weekend at the Glen Rock Bottle King to discover a little piece of France.