Imagine, if you will, that you are a monk during the Middle Ages. Your wool cloak torments you (fabric softeners are but a gleam in some inventor’s eye). Despite excellent acoustics, the droning chants are getting on your nerves. Add to these drawbacks, when dinner comes, you are faced with bread, vegetables and a lump of tasteless fermented milk. Fortunately, there is wine. So you end up drinking away your troubles. Perhaps it was during one of these sojourns to inebriation that a disgruntled monk decided to alter his daily cheese.
Cheese aging cellars in those days were not sanitary. If there was greenish-grayish-bluish mold covering the walls, then God must have had some reason for placing it there. In the course of many years (and at the possible expense of many monks), brave souls ate the cheese that had been encrusted with the same mold as found on the walls. Indeed, if one believes in divine guidance, then it is nothing short of miraculous that in some of those monastery cellars, molds mutated with other bacteria and actually created a living substance that improved the flavor of the cheese. Enter our tipsy monk. He may have (for twisted reasons only known to himself) scraped the mold off the walls, mixed it with water or wine, added some salt and began to furiously rub this obnoxious mixture over the surface of innocent cheeses.
Thus was born the category of cheeses that we call monastery cheeses. A behavior that was formally called perverse, is now fully sanctioned by cheesemakers everywhere…washing the rind. It seems that this washing process produces an aroma of unsurpassed distinction, and many know them as “stinky cheeses”.
At V. Sattui Winery our cheese case has a number of washed rind “stinky” cheeses, with glorious aromas that tend to make great wine partners. Try St. Nectaire, a lighter washed rind cheese with subtle earthy tones paired with V. Sattui’s 2012 Doctor’s Vineyard Pinot Noir.
Our new Dancing Egg Riesling is a great pairing with Pont L’Eveque, a funkier washed rind cheese from Normandy.
Or try Epoisse, a lovely creamy, aromatic cheese with a reddish-orange rind that couples nicely with our 2012 Anderson Valley Pinot.
Let us know what you think of Washed Rind cheeses and any favorite wine pairings you recommend!