January 23, 2008

La Fête du Fromage - From the Minervois and the Corbières

La Fête is a day late...yesterday our friend had a milestone birthday and her four hour lunch turned into an afternoon party. We didn't get home until after 10 p.m.!

Some of our local cheeses are incredible! The flavor of the cheese that comes from small producers surpasses anything you'll ever find at a grocery store, even if it is lait cru and artisanal. There is just something about earthy, farm produced, raw milk cheese that makes all the difference!

The two cheeses we tasted this week were both produced on small farms in the area; Brebis des Corbières and Tomme de Maquis.

Brebis des Corbières

This gorgeous, oozing wedge is the Brebis des Corbières, made in the style of Camembert from unpasteurized sheep's milk. The producers, Chantal and Jean-Gabriel Donnet, left their advertising jobs in Montpellier about twenty years ago to make cheese in the rugged, remote and beautiful Corbières. They currently have a herd of about 150 sheep and they produce the famous Tommette des Corbières, a hexagonal cheese with a Grenache (a local, fortified wine) washed rind. I haven't tried it yet, but it is on my list!
The Brebis des Corbières was perfectly ripe and was both creamy and tangy. The flavor was well rounded, smooth and meaty and it had a very pronounced, barnyard aroma. This cheese was pure heaven and we couldn't have been happier as we savored it slowly with a baguette and a glass of red wine from the area.

Tomme de Maquis

So, there we were, happily nibbling away on the Brebis des Corbières, thinking it was pretty much the best cheese ever, when we tasted the Tomme de Maquis.
 I had absolutely no expectations for this cheese. It is produced on a small farm about five miles from our house, had a mild aroma, a firm, dense texture and a snowy white interior. It looked nice enough.
But oh! It. Was. Wonderful!
The Tomme de Maquis is made from a combination of unpasteurized sheep and cow's milk and is made on the Cooperative Cravirola, near Minerve. It was creamy, mildly salty and had a delightful tang to its flavor. I poured a Minervois white wine from our local co-op, les Trois Blasons and we sat in amazement that such incredible cheese and wine is produced within a few miles of our home.

It was a fantastic Fête du Fromage!

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