Auvergne is actually the only region of France that boasts five AOC labelled cheeses; from pressed cheeses, including the well-known Cantal, to mouth-watering blue cheese such as the Fourme d'Ambert and the typical Bleu d'Auvergne, to the fine Saint Nectaire soft cheese. Such choice in the Auvergne Food and Gastronomy would give many opportunities to taste the outstanding Auvergne wines!
Auvergne Blue Cheese
The well-known Bleu d'Auvergne is a full bodied, salty cheese with a pale rind and a creamy, blue-veined interior. Its sharp taste is similar to that of the famous Roquefort cheese but the Auvergne Blue differs from being produced essentially in the Massif Central area, made with unpasteurised milk from the dark French Salers cow.
The AOC French Quality Label had largely limited the producing area since 1975, but an amendment in 1986 allowed more regions to sell Blue Cheese under the name of "Bleu d'Auvergne".
This gourmet round cheese has actually "recent" origins. In the Auvergne region of France, it is believed that the typical Blue cheese was created by chance. In the 1850s, a French dairyman, Antoine Roussel, noted that the application of rye bread mold created little blue stains in the paste, giving it a pleasurable, distinctive flavour.
To increase the veining, he pricked the rind of his cheese with a needle to enable the mould to spread throughout the cheese paste. This original technique of producing the refined Bleu d'Auvergne was rapidly adopted by the Auvergnat cheesemakers. Now the cheese is produced in industrial dairies but the needling process is still a essential part of its production.
The utimate step in making an authentic, tasty and fine French Blue cheese consists in maturing the cheeses for only 4 weeks in cool and wet cellars, before wrapping it in foil and make it ripen for another month if necessary.
Auvergne Saint Nectaire
The French Saint Nectaire cheese is today one of the most popular and consumed cheeses in France, but it unfortunately has been imitated several times, modifying the original quality and taste. The industrial variations of Saint Nectaire are often sold too young, offering a dry and harder texture than the traditional Massif Central produce.
Produced for centuries now, in the great farms of the Puy-de-Dome department, Saint-Nectaire cheese has been made with milk from the area - collected daily - and then traditionally set on rye straw for ripening.
The Auvergne Saint-Nectaire is an uncooked, pressed cheese with a soft, salted paste and a flowery, pale orange rind. French gourmets like to melt it to complement a dish, such as in a savoury crepe or Au Gratin potatoes.
To fully appreciate the flavours of these two moist cheeses from Auvergne, wine connoisseurs recommend a glass of Burgundy red wine.
As far as the Auvergne Blue Cheese is concerned, it would be even better to choose a full-bodied wine from Provence to enhance its sharp flavour.