There is something special about mountain cheeses.
Although many of them have a similar basic nuttiness, they all have amazing subtleties of flavor and texture. It is the differences in taste that bring to mind the beautiful areas these high alpine cheeses are made. Every valley and slope has different flowers, grasses and herbs growing, and all of this natural flora is expressed in the flavour of the milk. If the cheese maker has done a good job, then the delicate ecosystem of this amazing landscape is translated into the taste of the finished cheese.
Jura Montagne is a small wheel by the regular standard of mountain cheese. Many wheels made in the high alpine areas are large wheels of 30 – 40 kilos. Lifting them is certainly a good way to keep fit, which is why cheese mongers are strong! Jura Montagne is a relatively diminutive 6 kilos. The wheel has a natural crust that is formed from salting, turning and then brining the outside during the affinage. The addition of the washing gives this wheel its piquant finish. The paste is open with regular small holes throughout, unlike larger wheels like Gruyere and Comté, which have a smooth, dense paste.
The first taste I notice when sampling this cheese is a distinctive sweetness. Always remembering that milk has a lot of natural sugars in it, I guess it’s not surprising that a cheese made to show off the natural taste of the milk can often have a shading of sweetness, or fruitiness. The taste develops with a nice secondary flavour of toasted hazelnuts, and finishes with a small bite at the back of your jaw. The milk for this production is unpasteurized, as is common with most cheeses of this family.
Although many older mountain cheeses can be a great match with wines, I feel like the Jura Montagne has an interesting, stronger finish that makes it a better pairing with richer white wines rather than reds. I have paired it with chestnut honey and toasted pistachios and it was great. I think it would also be delicious after dinner with some nice ripe pears or a nice crisp apple, instead of dessert. All this talking about mountain cheeses has made me want to go to Switzerland!