Country of Origin: France (Monts du Velay, Haute-Loire department, Auvergne)
Milk: cow (pasteurized)
Type: blue, soft
Age: 2 months
This cheese’s history is quite short, dating only to 1988, when it was developed by the Bongrain group (which produces an enormous number of well-known cheeses such as Chaumes, Cœur de Lion, Caprice des Dieux, Etorki, St. Moret, Pet’t Louis, and the list goes on . . . ). Now, it is produced by one of its members, the Compagnie Fromagère de la Vallée de l’Ance.
This cheese falls under the double-cream cheese class because the pasteurized milk is reinforced with cream, giving it 60% butterfat content. The cheese is aged 2 months.
Let’s move on to the cheese itself–like Roquefort, St. Agur has no rind, and is wrapped in thin foil to keep in moisture, and its characteristic creamy-crumbliness. The cheese appears both creamy and crumbly, with a pale yellow paste. The deep olive-colored veins in the cheese make up large hollows throughout the paste, and are quite numerous. The cheese’s tangy, lactic, slightly yeasty, slightly spicy aroma is quite delectable, one of my favorite cheese aromas in the store.
Tastewise, the St. Agur begins a bit sweetly, but then becomes salty, then tangy and a touch spicy. However, the cheese’s creaminess develops before the tangineess becomes too strong. The cheese has a creamy mouthfeel (this is a double-cream cheese remember!), and a long finish.
I tested the St. Agur with all most of the cheese plate condiments, and found it works quite well with the apricot chutney, and highlighted the ginger in the chutney. The marcona almond purée brought out the cheese’s saltiness. I also enjoyed the mango chutney; the spice in the chutney was tempered by the creaminess of the cheese. The fig chutney was also an interesting one–the chutney brought out the cheese’s spiciness, while the cheese brought out the ginger and tartness of the chutney.
For the record, there has never been a saint named Agur.
Also, I just had to add a little musical note, since some of my favorite traditional music comes from the Auvergne region of France–namely, music for the vielle à roue, or hurdy-gurdy. If you want a better sense of the Auvergnat culture, you can take a look at the website of this marvelous vielle à roue player from the region, Patrick Bouffard. His instrument choice and repertoire of traditional French music represent an aspect of France that not even many French people are in touch with these days, much less non-French peole. He’s a true virtuoso, though, and I am waiting for the day when the vielle becomes more popular! If you want to see some more fine instruments, go to the website of famed luthier Bernard Kerboeuf. He and his gifted atelier churn out about 40 of these instruments per year; everything is handcrafted, and their quality is top-notch.