While Colleen and I have been focusing our taste buds on American cheeses for the past couple of years, we dip into international cheese waters from time to time, too. After all, it’s really hard to ignore the recommendation of your cheesemonger when you ask what’s good and ripe today and she hands you a wedge of dense, fudgy French cheese. Such was my fate last week when I visited France 44 and Song told me I had to get the St. Nectaire.
It’s a good thing I listened to her because otherwise I would have missed out on this semi-soft, washed-rind beauty from France’s Auvergne region. St. Nectaire has a rich history dating back to the 1600s, when it was made using the milk from cows that grazed on the volcanic pastures of Auvergne. You know how that goes: rich soil = rich milk. The cheese is washed in brine and aged for at least two months on a rye mat, which helps impart a grassy flavor and aroma.
Though I’m usually a rind girl, the chalkiness of St. Nectaire’s exterior was too gritty for me, so I concentrated on the supple paste. Pliable and pock-marked, the interior balances those grassy undertones with a nuttiness that also could be attributed to the rye. Its heftiness, both in weight and flavor, makes St. Nectaire a fine match for a fruity red. Murray’s recommends Beaujolais, but since I’m still in my pinot noir phase from last fall’s Oregon trip, I’d likely pair it with a pinot. A nutty biscuit would round out your snack nicely.