World Cheese Encyclopaedia - Each Sunday learn all about a cheese in season.
This week Saint-Nectaire from France.
Country: France 🇫🇷
Made from: Cow’s milk
Pasteurised: pasteurized or unpasteurised
Texture: creamy, smooth and supple
Taste: grassy, mushroomy, nutty
Certification: AOC, AOP
Aging: 6 – 8 weeks
Saint-Nectaire (also called St. Nectaire) is a semisoft, washed rind cheese from the Auvergne region of France. Its rind conceals a soft, mild, creamy cheese. It is produced in the Mont-Dore mountains, in the heart of the Auvergne volcanoes, in one of the smallest AOC zones of France. It has enjoyed a registered designation of origin (AOC) since 1955, making it one of the oldest AOC cheeses. In 1996 it was also attributed a protected designation of origin (AOP).
It is made from the milk of Salers cows, which have played a critical role in cheesemaking for hundreds of years. Salers cows were named after a village from the Middle Ages, situated in the heart of the mountains. They are a visually intriguing reddish-brown color and possess angled, lyre-shaped horns. The flavor of their famed milk is a result of both genetics and the rich, perfumed volcanic pastures they enjoy from April to October. These volcanic meadows are loaded with phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium, all of which are found in high concentrations in the Salers' milk, and all of which are integral to the final flavor of Saint-Nectaire cheese.
Saint-Nectaire, has a grayish-purple rind covered with white, yellow, and red mold spots, a result of the wild grasses that the Salers cows eat during summer and autumn. A whole cheese is only about eight inches in diameter and weighs about four pounds. Saint-Nectaire is both a fermier (farmhouse) and industrial cheese. Depending whether the processes are artisanal (raw milk) or industrial (pasteurised milk), the texture attributes in Saint-Nectaire are vastly different. Saint-Nectaire fermier is easily recognizable by its oval label while the industrial version’s label is square.
Saint-Nectaire fermier takes six to eight weeks to mature on rye straw mats, imparting a peculiar pungent smell to the cheese. The appearance of the rind of Saint-Nectaire can be very different according to its level of maturity. It is always irregular and never all the same color. It can show white, brown or gray spots on a pinkish-orange base. Its paste is of a shiny, creamy color that can sometimes reveal round fermentation holes. Relatively soft and smooth. Velvety but not creamy in the mouth. The rind has a typical earthy aroma. However, its paste has a mild, fresh, lactic aroma, with herbal notes and a nice hazelnut taste.
Saint-Nectaire has been produced in the region of Monts-Dore in northern Auvergne for centuries. Monts-Dore is known as "montagres à vaches," or "mountains for cows," as they provide summer pasture for herds raised primarily for milk and the production of cheese. Its reputation as a cow-grazing homestead has made its way into French consciousness because many cheeses come from this famed region in the geographical heart of France. In the winter the land is covered with deep snow and when summer arrives it brings very high temperatures. Although this may sound punishing, the weather is actually ideal for both wine and cheesemaking.
Saint-Nectaire was a favorite of Louis XVI. It was introduced to the royal court by the Marshal of France, Henri de la Ferté-Sennecterre, for whom the cheese is named.
How to enjoy it
Saint-Nectaire goes well with fruits, raw vegetables, olives, bread, and salami. Pair it with a glass of Bordeaux, Shiraz, Côtes d'Auvergne or Beaujolais.
Source: cheese.com, fromages.com, fromages-france.com, cheesemonthclub.com