This past May, I had the good fortune to travel to France and work with one of our favorite affinage companies, Marcel Petite. Nestled in the Jura Mountains in northeast France, Marcel Petite ripens massive wheels of Comte to absolute perfection. We arrived at the aging facility, a decommissioned military bunker named Fort Lucotte. We were met at the door by Phillip Goux, the head salesmen for Marcel Petite. Lunch was quickly served: espresso, red wine, cured ham, saucisson and… wait for it….lots of Comte!
We descended into the fort with our bellies full and heads dazed with wine and anticipation of the work we were about to do. Our mission there that day was to perform a “cheese triage,” a tasting of multiple cheese batches to find the right flavor profiles. The concept of a flavor profile is crucial to selecting wheels of cheese. There are so many factors that affect the final flavor of a cheese: amount of sunlight and rain, the health and mood of the cows, various wild flowers in the cows’ pastures, who made the cheese and how long it was aged.
After trying close to thirty wheels of Comte, I finally decided on a profile that Di Bruno Bros. would carry in all our stores. The flavor is delicate with a feminine quality to it: floral, fruity and slightly lactic. When the good folks at Marcel Petite receive an order from us now, they will only select wheels that taste like the original one I selected in mid-May.
Even more incredible than this was the gift the affineurs bestowed upon me: the opportunity to select a single wheel (out of 100,000 wheels) whose profile I personally liked best. After trying a few more batches, I settled on my personal favorite flavor profile. This wheel had what I would call a more masculine profile to it: more aged and robust, nutty, almost chocolatey. The important distinction between my favorite flavor profile and the standard profile is that the flavors of the standard profile are unique and fill a certain niche in my case at Ardmore; in other words, no other cheese tastes like this. On the other hand, my personal selection’s profile overlaps with some of our favorite Swiss Alpines, like Challerhocker or Maxx Extra, and would thus be a redundant addition to any Di Bruno Bros. cheese case.
After waiting almost six weeks, my hand-selected wheel of Marcel Petite Comte has cleared American customs and will be in stores starting this week. My plans are to make an amazing fondue, so stay tuned!