The "Jeune Montagne" cheese cooperative offered us a great challenge in March: to match a series of five Aubrac cheeses with Japanese sake in the best possible way! Although it is now accepted that sake is a wonderful companion to cheese, this time we wanted to go further in the possibilities by looking for the perfect match. After tasting the cheeses on their own, we have come up with a pre-selection of beautiful references selected from our catalogue.
Cheeses to be tasted: Le Buronnier de l'Aubrac, Laguiole PDO 4 months and Grand Aubrac, L'Ecir de l'Aubrac and Thérondels.
THE JEUNE MONTAGNE COOPERATIVE
Located in the heart of Aubrac, the Jeune Montagne cooperative was founded in 1960 by a group of young milk producers. Today, it has 76 members who are totally independent and in full compliance with the PDO specifications, including barn hay and pasture milking. The processed milk is collected daily within a 50 km radius of the cheese dairy. It is produced under the PDO Laguiole specifications, reputed to be one of the most exigent in France, guaranteeing a sustainable agriculture.
Refining of Grand Aubrac PDO cheese (Photo François Lemancel)
Only two breeds of cows, the Aubrac and the Simmental, are allowed because they are perfect for cheese production. They are fed on grass and hay from Aubrac. Jeune Montagne and its members thus perpetuate the traditional knowledge inherited from the monks and buronniers of the region.
Aubrac and Simmental cows (Photo Laure Anglade)
Pairing n°1: Aubrac Ecir with Shichiken Sparkling Yamanokasumi
The Ecir is an icy wind that lifts the light snow on the Aubrac mountains. It gives its name to this snowy white cheese with a bloomy rind. The nose is marked by the fresh and lively aromas of raw milk. It is creamy and melting, but also dense in the mouth. Its taste is milky, delicate and fresh // Shichiken Sparkling Yamanokasumi is a sake whose sparkle is obtained through incomplete filtration, a deposit forms and allows a second fermentation in the bottle. It is fresh, lively and fruity, and slightly cloudy, usunigori.
With its dense texture, Ecir cheese covers the palate with a creamy and fresh layer, leading to a long persistence of aromas. The Yamanokasumi sake mingles with the richness of the cheese and its fizz emulsifies the creaminess for a very light sensation in the mouth. The nose of the cheese and the lactic acid driven flavours of the sake combine in a fresh, milky spiral. A pleasant and very amusing combination for the aperitif, which we complemented with a few dried apricots to make the link between richness and fruitiness.
Pairing n°2: Buronnier de l'Aubrac with Imayotsukasa Hitotoki
The Buronnier is a soft cheese made from raw, whole milk and matured for 6 to 8 weeks in Laguiole. It has an ashy rind, a supple texture and a clean, milky taste, with a light umami and a nice salinity, with beautiful aromas of mushrooms and undergrowth // Imayotsukasa Hitotoki is a clean, fresh, slightly fruity sake with fine woody notes due to its production method, in Japanese cedar barrels.
The exquisite saltiness and mushroom aromas of the cheese blend beautifully with the fine rice and wood notes of the sake. This is even more interesting with the rind, with the idea of exacerbating the harmony between wood and mushroom. Slowly chewed, we discover a nice bitterness and a sake that underlines the notes of fresh herbs. These are followed by a beautiful combination of light umami and elegant rice aromas. A combination that fully benefits both partners.
Pairing n°3: Thérondels with Amabuki Yamahaï Junmaï
Thérondels, a cheese named after its village at the northern tip of the Aveyron, is a pressed, uncooked cheese with a soft, clean, vegetal taste, complemented by light animal notes. Its texture is rich and creamy // Amabuki Yamahaï Junmaï is a rich, dry sake with good acidity and marked umami.
The cheese has soft animal notes and a relatively high fat texture. On the palate, the floral scent of the ferments is sweet and the finish surprisingly light and clean. The sake is served at room temperature and mingles with the texture of the cheese, adding umami and taking the whole to more complexity and volume. Amabuki softens and also mellows the cheese flavours, which are then carried over to the fruit. The combination is fascinating in terms of textures, with sake and cheese intertwined.
Pairing n°4: Laguiole PDO 4 months with Sogen Junmaï
Laguiole AOP 4 months is matured for 120 days. It has a supple but firm texture, with a lively and fruity whey aroma and good acidity. A young and energetic cheese // Sogen Junmaï is a well-structured, rich Junmaï with a strong umami and good acidity.
A young cheese with character and vibrant aromas. Creamy, yet with good acidity. It needs to be accompanied by a sake that is comparable in terms of structure. Two strong personalities, with more sweetness and creaminess for the sake and more fruit and creaminess for the cheese. A very pleasant combination and volumes that develop on both fruity and milky sensations, on lactic acid. To best combine the textures, it is best to serve the sake at room temperature.
Pairing n°5: Laguiole PDO Grand Aubrac with Shuho +10 Junmaï Daïginjo Chokarakuchi
Laguiole PDO Grand Aubrac is a grass-fed cheese par excellence as it is made exclusively from milk produced during the grazing period. Surprisingly fruity, floral and intense, it expresses aromas of dry hazelnut and a long finish, the result of being made from raw milk // Shuho +10 Junmaï Daïginjo Chokarakuchi is a fruity and floral sake, while being very dry (nihonshudo of +10) and precise.
The fruitiness of the cheese is perfectly matched with the fruitiness of the sake in very surprising perceptions around pineapple! We enjoy the combination of aromas on the nose, even before the palate. They then melt together into magnificent umami and fruit sensations, with a marked persistence of pineapple. While Ginjo sakes are not easy to match with cheeses, this is a luxurious combination, certainly the most elegant of all.
Very successful pairings that represent a tiny fraction of the possibilities offered by sake. But sake and cheese are really great! So don't hesitate to try it at home and let us know your impressions by message or on our Facebook page.