Tag Archives: terroir

A Wrinkle in Cheese

Have you ever gone up to a cheese counter, picked up a hunk of cheese, and asked the cheesemonger there “What is this cheese like?” Their responses try to tell you something about the qualities of the cheese – the taste, texture, type of milk – there’s common words and truths about taste that we rely on to describe cheeses. Words that most people can identify in their mind as a particular taste, and they know whether or not they like that familiar descriptor. Of course, the type of milk – cow, goat, or sheep – is a constant. Words like nutty or sharp have a distinct taste – they seem to be divergent. However, a cheese can be both nutty and sharp at the same time. It’s a peculiar paradox.

In Madeleine L’engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, the characters end up on a planet of beasts with no eyes. They’re gray furry blobs that communicate by thoughts and feelings – they don’t have the sense of seeing. The main character Meg tries to explain things like light or sight to the creatures, and putting these concepts into words eludes her.

Essentially, all cheese has the same basic starting points. Milk. Starter cultures. This is how yogurt is made, and ricotta, and mozzarella and aged cheeses take their first steps with these ingredients. It is how they are aged, in what kind of molds, as well as the starting point of the milk, that begins to diversify the flavors and bring about aspects of different cheeses.

It really is remarkable how wide-reaching and completely different cheeses can be with the same basic starting ingredients. These variances are owed mainly to terroir – a term used to attribute a cheese’s unique flavor profile to the environment in which the animal producing the milk feeds. The environment and what they are eating translates to the milk, which translates to the cheese.

So herein lies the difficulty of describing taste. We use specific words to describe them, but there is no one common perfected language used to describe each and every cheese. This in part is due to the fact that when you eat cheese it’s not only what you’re tasting that matters – it’s the way the cheese feels in your mouth. It’s how it interacts with what you’re drinking. For example, a chalky aged goat cheese tastes even better when it’s paired with a lightly sparkling white wine or a dry chardonnay. The wine brings out the richness and fruitiness in the cheese, so that it becomes an even better experience than enjoying just the wine or cheese alone.

So acknowledging all of that, where does that leave us? Terroir of cheese can tell us a lot – if the cheese is earthy, buttery – we know that the animal must’ve been eating something that lent it those aspects. But, as an animal is a living creature, it grazes and it goes to the next pasture and finds its next meal. So day to day, their milk is changing and those multitudes are going into the artisan cheese that you pick up and ask “What is this cheese like?” We can tell you – but the best thing to do, in my opinion, is to taste.

All photos taken by Hillary Anderson.

June Wine of the Month Club

The Heat is here. Finally after so many months of cold, we have begun our forceful journey into the arms of Summer. Raw hot sun beats down on our greedy faces as we all flock to any outdoor activity we can think of. Grills have become our go-to cooking method, as eating inside becomes unnecessary. Inspired by the heat, we have decided to fill this box with a symbolic essence of summer: smoke. Each snack in this box will present this essence in very different ways; be it in form of ground spices, preserved fruits, or a block of cheese.

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Instead of being inspired by the season, the wines this month are driven by a sense of place. Each of these wines truly express the terrior in which they are grown, as well as beautifully displaying the masterful techniques required to make them. Made with authentic methods and paying homage to the traditions of the regions, all three wines are incredibly unique. From Oregon, with German inspiration, we have a bright and fruity bottle full of zest; from the Abruzzo coast comes a bottle as full and intriguingly golden as the sun; and finally from the slopes of a Sicilian paradise, comes a fiercely fresh red born out of the vines surrounding a volcano.

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The Libations

Teutonic Wine Company Willamette Valley White 2014: Olga and Barnaby Tuttel, of Teutonic Wine Company, continue to impress us with each new bottle we sample. Which is why this will be the third bottle from Teutonic that we picked for our wine of the month boxes. Hopefully our obvious devotion to this small company from Oregon will assure you of the quality of this Willamette Valley White wine; although if we can’t convince you, we are confident this bottle will. From a company whose beginning was inspired by German wines, old world methods, and a strong desire to express terroir – you have here a bottle of wine that meets all of these factors. This 2014 white blend is made from three grape varieties: Pinot Noir,  Müller-Thurgau, and Chasselas. The later two grapes provide this wine with beautiful aromas of lemon lime zest, candied fruit, and bright citrus. Round and so supple, this wine softly hugs your taste buds with juicy apple flavors, as well as intriguing notes of earth and funk.

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Tenuta Terraviva Solobianco 2014Tenuta Terraviva translates from Italian to “living earth”; an exceedingly appropriate name for the organic winery started by two friends, Pietro Topi and Martino Taraschi. The gorgeous earth beneath the estate is found in the Teramo region of Abruzzo, less than a mile away from the Adriatic Sea. Pietro and Martino recognized the potential of this land to produce incredible, quality wines that represented the region’s traditional styles in an honest and pure fashion. Solobiano 2014 is a very unique example of these traditions, as well as a unique style of wine. Meaning “only white”, Solobianco is what is called an orange wine. Made from Trebbiano, Chardonnay, and Malvasia grapes, this style of wine is created in the same method as a red wine, (prolonged skin contact) but with the use of only white grape varieties. This method produces a wine with body and tannic qualities similar to reds, but with the fruit and minerality of whites. Solobianco is incredibly elegant with fresh notes of banana and hawthorn, followed by a persistent finish of balanced acidity.

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Cantine Valenti Norma Etna Red Wine 2011: Each of these wines have strongly represented the land in which they are produced, but perhaps the most impressive thus far will come to you from one of the most unique places to grow vines on: an active volcano. Cantine Valenti of Sicily is the producer of our last wine, Norma, a red wine created from grapes grown in the volcanic landscape of Mt Etna. From a paradise of vines so closely surrounded by the threat of old lava flows, this wine is made from Nerello Mascalese, a true red variety of the volcano. The adamantly organic practices of Cantine Valenti elevate the already premier cru quality of the Nerello Mascalese grapes in this beautifully natural bottle of wine. The super volcanic quality of earth in which the 100 year old vines are grown, make this wine intensely mineral driven, with notes of fresh cut rose petals and dark red fruit on the palate. The volcanic magic that surrounds Cantine Valenti has infused this bottle with a fiery freshness, making it an incredibly unique representation of Sicilian wines.

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The Snacks

Mustard &  Co Smoky BBQ: Justin Hoffman, a co founder of Mustard & Co. knew from the beginning that a plethora of fancy ingredients were not necessary to make great mustard; all he needed was good quality, freshly sourced spices. Following this mindset, Justin and Bryan started this company to create mustards in an honest, no fuss manner. Their Smoky BBQ mustard is a new addition to their lineup, perfectly timed for the summer months! Made with sweet and spicy ingredients, as well as a healthy dose of concentrated smoke, this BBQ sauce is begging to be doused over ribs on the grill or as a marinade for some baked beans.

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Anarchy in a Jar Grapefruit & Smoked Salt Marmalade: Anarchy in a Jar was started by Laena McCarthy, whose passion for jams started back in her childhood. Laena started this Brooklyn company with the goal of combining modern advantages and old world jam making techniques. Using only the freshest fruits from local farms, Anarchy in a Jar creates preserves that are unique, fun, and most importantly, wicked tasty. From their selection we have chosen the Grapefruit & Smoked Salt Marmalade for you to try. The bright grapefruit citrus flavors blend perfectly with the smoked salt, creating this smoky sweet spread with a seasonably appropriate touch of tartness!

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Boston Post Dairy Smokin Goud: If you haven’t noticed our smoked theme among the snacks in the box, you will definitely be convinced by the smell of this goat gouda. Despite the name, Boston Post Dairy is a small family run farm up in Enosburg Falls, Vermont. The farm is named for the Boston Post Stagecoach which used to travel straight through the property. Run by Robert and Gisele Gervais (and their four daughters), Boston Post Dairy makes a variety of cow and goat cheeses, as well as other typical Vermont products like maple syrup and goat milk soaps. This particular cheese was smoked with corn cobs, giving the cheese a potent smell, but a more naturally subtle smoke flavor.

Call the store at (617) 269-6100, email us at info@americanprovisions.com, or ask a staffer for more information on signing yourself or someone you love up for the Beer or Wine of the Month Club!