We have just a few wheels of the marvelous Vacherin Fribourgeois in our wash-rind cave now. They are “screaming-to-be-eaten.” That does not mean that they cannot wait; they will patiently wait until some lucky person gets to eat them. The Vacherin Fribourgeois becomes progressively stronger as it ages. When people hear the word “vacherin” they often assume it is the more famous cousin being referenced, the seasonal Vacherin Mont d’Or. The Vacherin Fribourgeois is available year-round however (a good thing) and the seasonal fluctuations in flavor may be recognizable though subtle. Our Vacherin Fribourgeois is produced from the milk of the Fribourgeois breed of cow (the local name for Holstein) in southwest Switzerland’s Canton Vaud.
Speaking of Holsteins; this cheese gives the breed’s milk a stamp of quality. I doubt the cheese would be quite the same if it were made with Jersey, Swiss Brown, Dutch Best, or any other cattle breed of milk. There are great cheeses produced from milk of those breeds and others, but I cannot imagine what a cheese maker could do to make a better Vacherin Fribourgeois. The cheese is similar to the great melting cheeses Raclette, Val Bagner (a type of Raclette) and Fontina d’Aosta. It has been called the original “party” cheese, and makes a great fondue. I see no reason to melt it down whatsoever. Bringing it up to room temperature and slicing off a wedge is enough – a party in the making. Fondues and raclettes have their places but this cheese is simply divine on its own, again, at room temperature: no colder, and no warmer.
The Fribourgeois does exude a rather mighty aroma at room temperature; one should be prepared for this. The “attack” is rather profound in the mouth too, yet the finish is absolutely sublime. Why I only gave it a quality rating of 95 in Cheese, a Connoisseur’s Guide to the World’s Best, I do not know. It could be because in the past it was a little inconsistent. One wheel would be a little over-the-top, with a gnarly rind and an almost bitter flavor; the next would be almost perfectly cylindrical with a flatter flavor. We have not seen those problems over the past few years.
What is surprising to me is that this cheese does not have a much bigger following. It could be partly because there are other Vacherins Fribourgeois that simply do not measure up, like many other Swiss cheeses. The cheese lover who has only experienced the lesser versions might write off Switzerland altogether. But for those that have had the superior versions, there is no turning back.
I myself might have neglected the Vacherin Fribourgeois for awhile longer if it were not for a cheese selection I was pairing with Scotch yesterday. The selection included several other fine cheeses, yet there it was: a proud wedge of the noble Vacherin Fribourgeois. By the way, it paired beautifully with a Scotch from the Isle of Islay.Posted by Artisanal Cheese