People occasionally ask me my favourite cheese - an impossible question but Vacherin Mont d’Or is certainly up there in the top 5.
It’s made either side of the Franco/Swiss border under slightly different names* between September and March and is a washed rind cheese with a wonderfully fluid texture. It's always presented in a box with a piece of spruce bark wrapped round it. You can serve it baked when it acquires the consistency of a fondue.
Locally in the Jura it would alway be drunk with one of the local crisp white wines. Top London cheesemonger, Patricia Michelson of La Fromagerie, recommends a vin jaune or Côtes du Jura (a blend of Chardonnay and Savignin) which is certainly the classic, on-the-spot pairing but these wines are hard to find and not to everyone's taste. Vintage champagne is also an option but not always what one is looking for with cheese which leaves one with aromatic whites.
'A perfectly ripe Vacherin Mont d'Or, oozing with funky fruit aromas, is an extraordinary thing to eat with a 15- to 20-year-old auslese riesling, which by then has developed a singular smoky aroma reminiscent of kerosene' Eric Asimov of the New York Times suggested a while ago. I also very much enjoyed a Vacherin recently with Laurent Miquel's Verité, a top quality viognier from the Languedoc.
Others such as Murray’s Cheese suggest pairing it with an aromatic gewurztraminer and a dry young Alsace or Austrian riesling should be an enjoyable pairing.
Is there any red that will work? I’m not totally convinced but an Hachette book I have, Fromages et Vins, suggests an Alsace Pinot Noir or a minor red burgundy such as Hauts-Côtes-de-Nuits.
Award-winning sommelier Nicolas Clerc recommends serving the cheese with toasted hazelnut bread and adding a julienne of raw cepes "to reach another dimension of pleasure” while Sue Style author of Cheese: Slices of Swiss Culture suggests: Serve this delectably runny cheese with good rye or wholewheat bread or allow it to slither gently over small, waxy (or new) potatoes cooked in their skins. You could also serve a selection of fragrant smoked meats and mountain sausages.
In terms of Swiss wines Sue suggests "a Petite Arvine from the Valais (Chanton Weine in Visp make a fine one), not a flétri but a dry one: pale straw, grapefruit/lime blossom with slightly salty finish and enough acidity to cope with the luscious silky texture of the Vacherin. Or, if you prefer red, how about a Pinot Noir from either Valais (Simon Maye, Maurice Zufferey - top names from around Salgesch/Sierre) or from Graubünden (Gantenbein's is most elevated, but there are lots of other fine ones from the village of Bündner Herrschaft near Chur), or a Dole, a blend of Gamay and Pinot Noir from the Valais."
* The Swiss version is called Vacherin Mont d’Or, the French simply Mont d’Or or Vacherin du Haut-Doubs
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