Have I ever mentioned I love food? I really enjoy flavors, stylistic nuances and regional styles. Maybe the one food that shows these qualities more obviously than any other is cheese. It’s like wine in some ways. Really, wine is just grapes, fermented and aged (which grape and from where it hails is where the story gets juicy). This is where you find all the nuance, regionality, etc., and the same goes for cheese. The list of ingredients is rather small, yet working inside a very small framework of raw ingredients and processes, there are literally thousands of cheeses, all unique!
Maybe nowhere are the cheeses more varied in style than those in France. I make it a point to search out different regional products every time I travel, and in France the list of cheeses is seemingly endless. In addition to the best known of her cheeses, like Comte, Brillat-Saverin, Crottin de Chavignol, Roquefort, Brie, Camembert, Morbier; the list just keeps going. I seem to discover exciting new additions every time I open my mouth.
This September, we spent a week pretty much eating and drinking France, through four of her regions including, a first for me, Corsica. One afternoon, to break up the breathtaking drive from Bastia to Ajaccio, we stopped and visited a fromage – fermier, cheese farm, high in the mountains. Sheep and mountains, no towns, no people, purity of place and the end result is an AOP cheese sought out by restaurants throughout the island. So are the sheep, but that’s another story.
Each day, the sheep provide enough milk for the production of 36 small wheels, each about the size of a softball. The fresh cheese is called Brocciu, and we tried it warm (not warmed up, still warm from the belly of the sheep!) with a splash of marc (grappa) and a little sugar. It was rich, unctuous and ever so delicate. The aged version, which we also tried, although the one we tried was 30 days old, where 90 days is the minimum requirement, was called Vinacce. Lovely! Fresh mountain air, the farm smell, what can be better?
Shayne Hebert, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits Wine & Spirits Sales Manager
Follow me on Twitter @abcwineShayne