Cheese University (XVIII): Reblochon


Reblochon

We owe today’s cheese to the shrewdness of French farmers who wanted to conceal the real amount of their milk production in order to reduce their tax burden. They did so at some point of time towards the end of the Middle Ages, transforming their milk into (easy-to-hide) small soft cheese discs that served as a source for minerals and fat during winter time up in the mountains. It took quite a while until this “hidden” cheese hit the markets, in fact, it wasn’t commercialized before the 18th century and it took another one hundred years or so before it was known as

Reblochon

Today, it is highly appreciated, yearly production has risen to 18.000 tons or so which make it a real business. In 2005, French authorities counted 161 farmhouse Reblochon makers, 24 more industrial-style factories and 12 affineurs (these guys handle the ageing of the fresh cheese and bring each piece to perfection). Reblochon was granted the AOC label in 1958, the charter lists the rules you are familiar with after 17 sessions of the Cheese University: a real Reblochon is made only of raw cow’s milk and only local breeds are allowed on the pasture. The charter doesn’t allow silage as fodder and the best Reblochon is made, logically, during summer and autumn, when the herds are grazing high up on the Alps. Still, it is considered a winter cheese in France, due to the fact that many people only see and eat it while on their skiing holidays in the Alps.

It’s a charming, cheesy cheese, the rind is quite hard and dry, the pâte is soft and moist and creamy. It’s a melt-in-the-mouth-cheese, more sweet than salty. In its mountainous home region it is used a lot in fondues or for dishes au gratin, the result is always a hearty, folkloristic meal, they quite often combine it with bacon and potatoes as if it wasn’t already heavy and fatty enough. I prefer it uncooked, just as it is – and mild as it is you could even think about having it for breakfast (and definitely during a brunch thing). It’s also a perfect cheese for introducing children to the real cheese universe. The official website stresses this point, too.

On the wine side don’t go for any heavy fare. A fruity white wine could be nice, a lighter red wine would serve as a companion as well. Insiders would go for the wines of Savoy that I personally consider, forgive me, to be the worst in France but you maybe want to find out for yourself.

Here’s a funny video. Forget about the boring first half of the clip – and skip directly to 3’20” where you get some stunning footage about cows wandering through a strange snowy world…

2 comments

  1. What a wonderful idea to make a French cheese encyclopedia! ( I have just discovered your website). I totally agree the Savoy wines are not outstanding, but then I can’t imagine tartiflette (I strangely prefer reblochon baked than raw) without a couple of glasses of Apremont… On the other hand I never drink it without tartiflette 😉 I must say I was disappointed learning this dish was invented quite recently in order to promote reblochon and increase its sales. I was sure it was at least 200 years old traditional, regional recipe… By the way, all those “uninteresting” wine regions should be closely observed and checked regularly for good quality bargains… For example, I find beaujolais wines have much improved recently, but the prices are still very interesting (of course I still haven’t found anything I would pay 20 euros, but one never knows… maybe in a couple of years?). Looking forward to read about a new cheese!

    • Thanks very much for stopping by and taking the time for a long comment! I fully agree that there are some pearls to be found in the not-so-well-known wine regions. You need good friends or a good wine dealer though to hunt them down. Beaujolais has improved, I think so, too. And, what’s more: the red wines out of the region make perfect companions to many wines!

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