Cendré de Champagne looks gritty. Which kind of turned me off at first.
Grittiness is not a characteristic that I look for when buying cheese.
But it does come from the Champagne-Ardenne region, home to Langres, a huge favorite of mine (and Champagne of course, another huge favorite of mine), so I figured that it would redeem itself.
Besides, cheese crusts can be cut away.
Cendré de Champagne is matured in damp caves for 6-8 weeks, covered in poplar and beech tree ash, hence the gritty texture of the crust. Traditionally the ash came from the fire in which pig's trotters had been cooked, adding a certain 'je ne sais quoi' to the flavor of the cheese.
These days the ash is pig trotter free and adds a nice, subtle smokiness to its rich, medium-strong, luscious flavor.
Although, the creamy richness is deceiving. The fat content in this unpasteurized cow's milk cheese is only 20-30%, as opposed to the more than 40% of most cheeses.
Just as the little bubbles of Champagne tickle your tongue when you drink it, Cendré de Champagne prickles and tickles your tongue when you eat it, taking its absolute deliciousness to a whole new level.
A glass of Côteau Champenois rouge is suggested with Cendré de Champagne.