Yesterday, Nick and I went to the Salon Mer & Vigne et Gastronomie. Longtime readers may remember the write-ups I did on it last year, but for those of you who are interested, they were Three. Long. Posts. And completely worth reading, if I do say so myself. This year, though, I’m giving you the highlights.
Since March is Savoie monthhere on Croque-Camille, I made a beeline for the first cheese stand I saw. Fortunately, Aux Saveurs des Montagnes, while based in Toulouse, had a wide variety of incredible Savoyard cheeses. We tasted about half a dozen cheeses, all of which were remarkable. The man at the stand made a point of explaining how his cheeses had nothing to do with their supermarket counterparts, and he wasn’t kidding. We sampled the absolute best Morbier I’ve ever had the pleasure of placing on my tongue. I never knew this, but it turns out Morbier comes from… Savoie! Looks like this region may merit more than one cheese post. After we’d made our selection, the guy tried to tempt us further with a nibble of Swiss Gruyère, which was outrageously good. It had a texture not unlike really good Parmigiano-Reggiano, with little crystals of intense flavor scattered throughout. The man pointed out that the Swiss Gruyère has no holes, and told a little joke: “Why are there no holes in Swiss Gruyère?” “Because they don’t have any mice in Switzerland!” Ha!
Next we headed straight for G. Prieur, who had sent us free entry passes for buying a case of wine last year. We were recognized immediately, and got to cut right to the excellent wines (instead of wasting time with the merely good ones). Opting to start out by sampling the white wines this time, we were presented with a series of four excellent whites: a simple white Santenay, which would make a great table wine; a very distinctive and mineral 2005 Meursault; an exquisite apéritif-worthy 2006 Meursault, which Alain (our liaison) claimed was from one of the very best parcels in Bourgogne; and a premier cru Chassagne Montrachet 2007, whose briny character would make it a perfect accompaniment to any seafood dish. (Here’s an insider secret I learned: true wine aficionados don’t pronounce the “t” in the middle of “montrachet,” such that it is pronounced “mon-rah-shay.” Drop that one the next time you’re chatting up a French wine merchant – they’ll probably be impressed.)
Moving on to the reds, of which we sampled eight, we learned that while 2005 Burgundies (both white and red) will age beautifully for several years, the 2006 vintage is best enjoyed sooner rather than later. The highlights of the flight included a 2005 Vosne-Romanée, which was eyes-rolling-back-upon-first-sip good and a 2004 Corton-Bressandes Grand Cru, which Nick and I decided tasted like the best raisins ever. Wines classified as Grand Cru in Bourgogne represent the top one percent of the region’s production, and let me tell you, you can taste the difference.
While we were tasting wines, we spotted our favorite Burgundian cheese producer (or at least their representative), so after buying more wine than we meant to (how do these things happen?) we headed over to sample some delicious washed-rind cheeses.
Fromagerie Gaugry makes some of the best époisses I’ve ever tasted. And the woman who works the salon circuit always makes sure to sell you a cheese at its peak of ripeness. She asks when you want to eat it, and gently prods each cheese before selecting just the right one for your consumption. (She remembered me from our two previous encounters, and when I said it was probably because of my accent that she recognized me, she told me it was because I was “pétillante,” which I have chosen to translate as “ebullient.”) This time around, we tried two cheeses that were new to us: the Saint-Vincent, which is washed with Marc de Chablis for a slightly milder take on the traditional (Marc de Bourgogne-washed) époisses; and the Soumaintrain, which the woman explained was the ancestor of époisses.
Using the same milk as époisses, Soumaintrain is instead washed with saltwater and has a soft, almost crumbly texture as opposed to the gooey glory of its progeny. Clearly, it was good enough to bring home.
To sum up, it was a cheese and wine and cheese filled afternoon. There was some charcuterie thrown in there for good measure, too. What more do you want from a French food fair?
Originally published on Croque-Camille.