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Cheese of the month: Morbier

Cheese and wine. It's is one of the best known pairings of food and wine, and yet the least understood.

cheese of the month: morbierMost people know that cheese and wine go well together, but are thinking of a deep red and a cheese board at the end of a meal. It doesn't have to be like this, cheese, as in wine, offers huge variety. Cheese needs exploring, so as part of a ongoing regular feature, I introduce cheese of the month: morbier. Morbier is a semi-soft, cows milk cheese from the Franche-Comté region of France. This area borders Burgundy, and although not as famous as its neighbour, it produces some fantastic food and wine. The well known cheeses Comté and Vacherin Mont D'or are also made nearby, depending on what time of the year it is. The cheese is instantly recognisable as it has a blue line running through it. No, its not mould. It's ash. Morbier was traditionally made from left over curd from Comté production, but this was not enough to make a complete cheese (cheese is made big in this region as there was often a long delay between making and selling due to the pastures being up in the mountains, so they needed to be large to allow them to keep for longer). The leftover curd is pressed into a mould, then ash sprinkled on top to protect it overnight, before the process is repeated with the morning's left over curd. This gives the cheese a unique property. One side of the ash line is creamier than the other! Or at least it is supposed to be in traditionally made cheese. Apparently tired cows give creamier milk so the evening half is softer than the morning. The cheese itself is washed with salt water during maturation and develops a sticky pink skin. This is really pungent, but because the milk is boiled before making the cheese the flavour is actually quite mild. Many people don't eat the rind because it will have often not been wrapped and will come with a sticker on it. if you don't all you will taste are lovely flavours of flowers and citrus and fresh grass. Remember this cheese is delicate and deserves to be tasted. No big, full-bodied red wine to match here please. cheese of the month: Roussette de Savoie, Domaine Giachino 2011There is a slight bitter after taste to the cheese which is normal, but is also a key consideration to wine pairing. My ideal match would be a wine from the region and I always like the fruity characteristics of a Rousette de Savoie, which will help to offset the bitter characteristic, but may be a little too much for some palates. In that case if you want to work with the bitterness, then a Burgundian pinot noir would be fantastic, especially if you are eating the cheese after a meal. If you are really adventurous and are going to eat the rind on the cheese then a delicate rose will help offset the pungency on the nose and bring out some of the floral characteristics of the cheese, it's also a great match for a sunny day to nibble on cheese outside with a lovely glass of wine. Have you tried morbier? What do you like to drink with it? any requests for cheese or style of cheese would you like me to write about in May then post them below. Rebecca, The Perfect Cellar Team

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