Taste the Terroir: Springtime Brie

Taste the Terroir: Springtime Brie

Cheese specialist Nick Bayne explains why he loves Paris in the springtime.

Is there anywhere quite like Paris in the spring? We’ve pushed past the dreary months – when the only way to beat the winter doldrums is with melted cheese – into these glorious months when the boulevards burst with blossoms.

While in the Loire and Provence does and ewes are hard at work munching on juicy forage and producing the most incredible milk of the year, in the city, fromageries display incredible fare in their windows, with the abundance of wonderfully young cheeses in full swing and the first growth of blossoms, chives, wild garlic and fresh herbs available to create unique preparations. Nowhere in the world displays cheeses like a Parisian fromagerie; more a celebration for the eyes, nose and mouth than a simple shop. The wonders of the season are hardly confined to the city limits. The Paris Basin may not be the land of chèvres and brébis, but it is the home of a great many cows. Though surrounded by the more notorious neighbours of Normandy, Nord and Grand Est, there are some notable cheeses to be found here, and most famous are the Bries -specifically the iconic Meaux and Melun. Hailing primarily from Seine-et-Mame (and several surrounding departments), these famed bloomy- rinded cheeses are fuelled by lush, river-fed pasture.

Purely anecdotal evidence puts the creation of the area’s Bries to nearly 1,300 years ago, but nobody needs the stuff of myth to know that true, raw milk Brie, slowly ripened on straw mats, is utterly phenomenal. With a ripeness-dependent pungency that falls anywhere between a mushroom cellar and old socks, it is earthy, vegetal with garlic and brassica flavours, and slightly buttery.

Brie de Meaux is slightly more controlled, and certainly a bit easier to handle. Melun is a smaller cheese with wilder habits, yielding considerably more funk and power but still utterly delicious. Regardless, the Bries made from spring and summer milk are particularly complex, and just the right kind of thing to eat on a bench along the Seine, accompanied by either a bottle of a bright Chardonnay or a lightly aged Beaujolais, and perhaps a petit chouchou to help share it.


From France Today Magazine

Lead photo credit : © Nick Bayne

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