CHEESE OF THE MONTH
Bleu de Gex
Thus far along the bountiful road to Fromage Nirvana, my tastings have confirmed, unsurprisingly, that artisanal cheeses knock their industrial counterparts into a cocked hat, and that the tastiest cheese doesn’t necessarily have to be either the most mature or the most robust. Subtler cheeses often reveal a broader range of flavours. Munster underlines, too, that a powerful pong can mask a much more delicate savour.
On the contrary, Bleu de Gex (as in ‘Ghex’) is a little-known Jurassic cheese that barely disturbs the Niffter Scale, yet flavour-wise nudges eight. Easily recognisable by its stone-hued wheels stamped with the word ‘Gex’, the cheese is one of the smallest yet oldest of appéllations (originating from a petty legal action decided in July 1935). Even though the cheese – otherwise known as Bleu de Septmoncel or Bleu du Haut-jura – also now bears a European AOP label, only four fromageries manufacture it from the unpasteurised milk of Montbéliarde cows reared in the mountainous Haut-jura.
The cheese I chose had enjoyed a six-month affinage or more, whereas it is customarily eaten rather sooner after the minimum three weeks. The spores of blue mould are introduced early on in the fabrication, then oxygenated during maturation once the cheese has been salted. The resulting blue-green veins give the ivory-coloured flesh a nice marbled effect. After the initial pleasing burst of cheesy flavour, however, the blue kicks in with a somewhat acidic aftertaste that comes to dominate the proceedings. So I was glad of the Pinot Noir that we chose to accompany it. The texture, too, is a little chalky and it’s altogether denser and less creamy than, say, the heavenly Roquefort Carles. I’ll give this another try one day, but next time I’ll plump for something younger with a less pronounced blue note.