The first time that I tasted a FladÃ¤ I recall having one of those cheese epiphanies. I certainly expected it to be a good cheese, since it was one of those cheese crafted by one of my favorite cheese makers from Switzerland â€“ Josef Barmettler â€“ yet little did I know what thrills were in store for me underneath its leathery rind. Cutting back the top of the cheese and folding it over revealed a milky pool of voluptuous fermented milk inside.
This is relatively new cheese but it appears very much to be a type of an ancient cheese â€“ the widely loved Vacherin Mont dâ€™Or. The FladÃ¤ comes in the same type of chipped wooden box. The rind looks very similar, except without the spruce bark encircling it, and the thick liquid paste is pretty much the same. The differences are more apparent when you smell the cheese, then when you taste it the sparks begin to fly. Except that the FladÃ¤ has a sublime flavor quality that is unmatched in the type Vacherin Mont dâ€™Or we see here today â€“ a heat-treated version that pales in comparison, a nice cheese though one that lacks depth, as well as a comparable shelf-life.
I recall a time when the FDA held a shipment of FladÃ¤ back for testing. Of course the cheeses passed but by the time they were released to us they looked a bit dreary. Nonetheless, after the FDA told me that they were good to go (despite that elongated aging) I tasted one to see for myself. It was certainly further along and the aroma it had acquired was a bit daunting but it was delicious nonetheless.
A â€œbeautyâ€ shot of the FladÃ¤ is one of the first in my latest book â€“ Mastering Cheese â€“ and people often mistake it for the better known Vacherin Mont dâ€™Or. Thatâ€™s okay by me; I just want to make sure that people donâ€™t underestimate the superior quality of the FladÃ¤, knowing that the other cheese has a fraction of the aroma and flavor and then assuming that this is the same sort of cheese.
The FladÃ¤ is such a great cheese on its own that a wine partner might seem to be superfluous. Not even a baguette, just give me a spoon. This is one of those cheeses I fantasize about diving into. Several of the varietals with which it has paired well include Sauvignon Blanc (surprisingly) both stainless fermented and FumÃ©s, Viogniers, GewÃ¼rztraminers, Chenin Blancs from drier to sweeter, as well as red Priorats and Zinfandels.