The Cheeses of Basic Necessities
(with wine recommendations)
by Kay Pfaltz
Note: So as to always offer freshest and best quality cheeses, we limit our inventory. Some cheeses may not be available every day.
Arina- (goat’s milk) This semi-hard goat cheese from Holland goes particularly well with dry white wines–Chardonnays that are not over-oaked or Sauvignon Blancs. Try a Sancerre, Tursan, or Domaine Cauhapé from Jurançon.
Istara- (sheep’s milk) From France’s Basque country is a nutty, delicious, flavourful Brébis (sheep’s milk cheese). Pair with white wines or with light, fruity reds.
Port Salut- (cow’s milk) Port Salut, from France, is tangy, yet mild and versatile. It will pair best with young, fruity reds. Try wines such as Salmon Creek Merlot or Cabernet (Sonoma), or the French Abbaye de Valmagne from the Languedoc.
Chimay- (cow’s milk) A wonderful, full-flavoured Belgian cheese made by the Trappist monks. Great with Chimay beer, which is actually in the cheese. Or with Fischer Amber, a nutty, dark, but not too heavy French beer. Also outstanding with full-bodied wines such as Burgundy or Bordeaux, or cider.
Cantal- (cow’s milk) One of the oldest cheeses in France, high in protein, low in fat. Delicious and nutty. Pair with Burgundies or wines from the Rhone. Try Dominique La Bastide Côtes du Rhône, Sablet, Gigondas, Chateau la Tulerie, or a nice Côtes de Nuits.
Bleu d’Auvergne- (cow’s milk) From the mountains of the rustic region of the Auvergne, this cheese is made from cow’s milk in the form of a 5 pound cylinder. It has a rich, sharp flavour. Excellent blue and often less expensive than other imported blues, but equally as good. Pair with full-bodied red wines such as Bordeaux or Burgundy, or sweet whites. Delicious!
Brie- (cow’s milk) The “King” of soft-ripened cheese. Its flowery, edible crust is flecked light brown when fully ripened. (Beware of too “clean” or “white” looking Bries that are often found in large grocery stores. As with all cheeses, it’s best to buy from a local cheese shop or a grocery store with a good reputation.) Traditionally, Brie is produced in the Ile-de-France region outside of Paris. The finest examples are named after their towns of origin: Brie de Meaux and Brie de Mélun.
Reblochon - (cow’s milk) Ask a Frenchman or woman for a favourite cheese and chances are it’s Reblochon. Reblochon continues to be produced by a small number of cheese makers in the Thônes and Arly valleys in the south-eastern Alps. It is made from unpasteurized full-cream milk, and is designated by both the AOC and AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protégée), one of four origin and quality labels recognized in France and Europe. The story goes that during the 13th century farmers had to pay their landlords a tax on the amount of milk their cows yielded. However, when a payment was due the farmers would only partially milk their cows. Once the landowner had measured the yield, the farmers would milk their cows a second time (reblocher). This second milking yielded milk that was richer in fat, and this was used to make Reblochon.Wine pairings? Yum, try a burgundy, red or white. Price no object? Go with a Volnay.
Supreme- (cow’s milk) Rich, buttery, melt-in-your mouth. This triple crème originated in Normandy and is cured in ventilated drying rooms for two weeks. Pair with medium, fruity reds.
Affinois- (cow’s milk) Creamy and rich like Suprème, but with a slightly more tangy, pronounced and complicated flavour. This is a pressed curd cheese, somewhat delicate. Pairs well with medium to full-bodied reds.
Brillat-Savarin - (cow’s milk) Decidedly indulgent, Brillat-Savarin is a triple cream cheese best savored as a dessert (and an occasional one at that). Its high fat content of at least 75% is achieved by adding rich cream to whole milk. The result is a dense, moist and creamy cheese with flavors of butter, salt and cream, with an aftertaste of mushrooms and nuts on the rind. Brillat-Savarin is the oldest of the cream-enriched cheeses. It was created in the 1930s by cheese maker Henri Androuët as a tribute to the 18th-century French gastronome and epicure, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. Brillat-Savarin enjoyed cheese so much that he is known to have said, “A meal without cheese is like a beautiful woman with only one eye.” He also reputedly said: "Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are." Wine pairing: Cut the fat with bubbles; pair with champagne or sparkling wine.
St. André- (cow’s milk) Appreciated for its fluffy, cakey texture, tangy flavour and pronounced bouquet, this cheese is - as cheeses go - ethereal! Pair with light to medium-bodied red wines or fruity, spicy whites.
Montrachet- (goat’s milk) Made in the province of Burgundy and always comes in a log. Mild and creamy in flavour with a rind that may or may not be dusted with wine wood ash. Good keeping qualities. Perfect with Chardonnays from the Mâconnais.
Stilton- (cow’s milk) English, crumbly, strong blue. Best when "moving." (Ask us.) Pair, ideally, with a Port wine.
Roquefort - (ewe’s milk) The king of blues, if not cheese. Pair salty Roquefort with Montbazillac or Sauternes or any good sweet white. Remember contrast: salt with sweet. Not sweet on sweet.
Maroilles - (cow’s milk) Another “kind of cheeses” but if you don’t like full-flavoured cheese (i.e. strong and stinky) best to skip the Maroilles. But also a pity. And in truth, its taste is not as strong as its nose. Said to be invented by a monk in the Abbey of Maroilles in the 10th century, Maroilles is an incredibly pungent cheese, mellow, earthy and nutty. This is one for those who love a good stinky cheese. Harder to pair with wine than some, you might try a northern Rhone like St. Joseph, but better still would be a really good white. Go for a Premier Cru Chablis.
Epoisses - (cow’s milk) If you’ve never tried a buttery, rich, custardy bit of heaven, don’t delay. As I said, pure heaven. Grab a crusty baguette or pain de campagne, slather on Epoisses and ooooohhhhh. Pairing with wine? Burgundy, of course. Red or white, but a rich buttery white burgundy would be my choice for Epoisses.
Comté - (cow’s milk) A rich and nutty-tasting unpasteurized cheese produced from the milk of cows grazing at altitude in the Jura Massif mountain range of eastern France. Pair with dry whites, especially those glorious creatures from the Jura. Jacquère, Chardonnay, Altesse and Savagnin go well.
Tomme de Savoie - (cow’s milk) There are many Tommes! Tomme just means small, roundish loaves from France’s Alps region (Jura and Savoie again) or Switzerland. Tomme de Savoie comes from the Savoie. A good Tomme is hard to beat. Nutty with some slight tang and wet straw notes. Semi-soft, it pairs best with fruity reds like Poulsard, Trousseau, Gamay and Pinot Noir.
Saint-Nectaire - (cow’s milk) Saint-Nectaire is one of the more “French” of the French cheeses. It has been produced in the volcanic mountains of Monts-Dore in northern Auvergne for centuries. The grazing meadows are rich in phosphorus, potassium and magnesium, all minerals that are found in high concentration in the milk of the Salers cows that is used to make this AOC- and AOP-awarded cheese. This makes for a cheese that is rich and creamy in texture and complex on the palate. As it is matured on rye straw mats, the rind has a typical earthy aroma. Saint-Nectaire melts in the mouth with flavors of hazelnuts, mushrooms and cellars, though the brine, salt and acidity flavors are a direct result of the volcanic pastures. Pair with a medium Bordeaux for a classic French experience.
Beaufort - (cow’s milk) An Alpine cheese produced exclusively from unpasteurised cow's milk in the French Alps of the Haute-Savoie, Beaufort’s fruity taste and creaminess is highly prized. This cheese also has strict AOC labeling requirements and comes in three versions: Beaufort d’été (summer), Beaufort d'hiver (winter) and Beaufort chalet d’alpage, which must be made in a mountain chalet during the summer months from a single herd of cattle grazing in the mountain pastures. Its characteristic shape — a large, thick wheel with concave sides — originally enabled farmers to easily transport the cheeses down the mountains by winding ropes around the weighty wheels, so as to lash them to a donkey. Beaufort is richer and creamier than other mountain cheeses such as Gruyere, Comté or Emmental, and the smooth, supple paste has flowery and herb aromas. It melts well, making it another great choice for a fondue or a grilled sandwich. Pair with dry whites or fruity reds.
Fourme d’Ambert - (cow’s milk) Fourme d'Ambert is one of France's oldest cheeses, dating back to the Roman occupation. Produced in the Auvergne mountains in the central south of the country, it is a traditional, farmhouse blue cheese that can be either co-operative or artisanal. It also holds AOC status. This cheese is more supple and dense than most blues. Although it matures in 40 days, it is cave-aged for two to three months for optimum quality. During the ripening time, it is injected with Vouvray Moelleux, a sweet white wine. Fourme d'Ambert is easily recognizable by its unusually tall cylindrical shape, described by the word fourme. This cheese has a creamy texture with a distinctive musty, blue cheese aroma and a taste that is not overpowering. Wine pairing: rich reds or demi-sec whites are best.