As the seasons change and the pastures are coated in frost, we look forward to some of our most decadently delicious cheeses of the year. Grass-fed milk is often prized for it’s buttery, vibrant yellow-orange color and mouth-watering flavor. These qualities are most present in cow’s milk alpine styles, like Comté or Gruyère, where beta carotenoids from grass (the same compound that give’s carrots their color) provide that deep yellow color and diacetyls, produced in fermentation, give us that characteristic “grass-fed” flavor. Summer’s milk is lean and grassy, making it a perfect raw material for harder, longer-aged cheeses with longevity and elasticity (try bending a piece of Comté). However, for the lavish, richly-textured, scoopable delights of the holiday season there is no substitute for winter’s milk. When the cow’s move off pasture and temperatures drop, their diet shifts to primarily hay and grain, and they produce less milk at each milking. As a result, the milk is much richer and sweeter and significantly higher in fat, protein, and lactose. This milk is ideally suited to making those soft-ripened cheeses that pair perfectly with a holiday meal, the globular palate-coating beauties that sink in to every nook and cranny of a crusty baguette.
These kind of winter-milk cheeses pair perfectly with the Montbourgeau Crémant du Jura, one of our favorite sparkling wines for tyrophiles (cheese-lovers).