If a cheese could evoke the spirit of the region where it is produced, in my opinion Tomme de Brenac is it.
Though I spent a mere twenty-four hours in Aveyron last week, I feel like I got a good sense of the place thanks to my personal tour guide and her lovely family, and a brief spin around the beautiful, cow and sheep filled countryside.
Tomme de Brenac's somber, grey rind is reminiscent of the cloudy skies and foggy weather of mid-autumn that I experienced, but underneath that rind is a cheese with a reliable, honest character and surprising joie de vivre.
It is full of rich butter, mushroom and yeasty flavors and has a faint, moldy aroma. Its texture is soft and smooth, and a bit chalky in the center.
Overall this Tomme is somewhat rustic, yet refined. But not complex.
You're following me, aren't you?
The pastures surrounding the tiny village (population 230 or so) of Graissac in northern Aveyron is home to a herd of forty Simmental cows whose sweet, grass-rich milk is used to produce Tomme de Brenac (as well as Laguiole and Tome Fraîche de l'Aubrac).
It pairs wonderfully with our local Minervois red, but a glass of Marcillac, produced just down the road from this cheese, would also be a good wine match.