Cheese University (XXVI): Saint-Nectaire


Saint-Nectaire

Here comes another high representative of the rustic Auvergne region, I very much like the description of its smell by my colleagues from the Eyewitness Companions who call it “old, the smell of a dark and humid cellar, of rye straw, and of mould”. The then Marshal of France, Henri de La Ferté-Sennecterre, a native from Auvergne, brought it to the royal table of Louis XIV in the 17th century (amongst other cheeses from his home country) – and it has been a favourite on every bourgeois French plateau de fromages ever since. This special, creamy, marvellous cheese is no other than

Saint-Nectaire

Right now is the time to taste it: The cows had fun outdoors during the summer season and have delivered the best milk there is, rich with herbal notes, with traces of the wild grass pastured all day long. Needless to say that the milk used for Saint-Nectaire is processed raw, unpasteurized, and after 5 to 9 weeks of salting, washing, ripening, of affinage, you’ll find the precious summer fare on the shelves of your trusted merchant soon.

Saint-Nectaire obtained the AOC label pretty early, in 1955. The region of production is limited to 72 villages in the Puy-de-Dôme- and Cantal-Departements, a volcanic high plateau actually, spreading 1000 meters above sea level (and being very, very beautiful). 255 farmers make Saint-Nectaire cheese, 6 more industrial-style co-ops are active, and there are 24 independent affineurs who buy the fresh pieces and turn them into yellowish disks weighing 1.7 kilograms in the end (or 600 gr the small version). Saint-Nectaire’s official website is as pathetic as it is charming, check it out.

In the mouth, on the palate, Saint-Nectaire surely is one of the finest cheese varieties France has to offer. Its texture is charmingly supple and creamy. Once it melts in your mouth (and it always melts!) you will find acid notes balanced by milky pleasures and yes, this cheese contains a lot of fat, around 25 gr per 100 gr of cheese and every single one is worth the sin. I hold it dear and rank it as one of my personal top five. Do you eat the rind? I don’t but that’s a choice, not a strict rule, I’d say.

As a drink with it, I would go (if I was only able to always afford it) for a grand white from Burgundy. A red Beaujolais could work as well. The wine you choose should have some acidity to help you cope with the matière grasse, which is the elegant French way to say: fat.

The video displays some nice impressions of the Auvergne landscape.

One comment

  1. Oh, I love Saint Nectaire! I don’t eat the rind here exceptionally (I do in most cheese varieties and sometimes prefer rind from the interior 😉 ).
    Wonderful, informative post, as always!

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