| Bleu de Sassenage
A centuries-old French cheese made as far back as the Middle Ages, Bleu de Sassenage (bleu de sah-sen-nahj) takes its name from a 14th century baron who authorized the sale of the cheese on his lands. By the 20th century, with the development of refrigerated transport, farmers who had formerly made this blue cheese began shipping their fresh milk instead and abandoning cheesemaking. Production of Bleu de Sassenage plummeted.
Eventually a local dairy near Grenoble decided to relaunch the cheese, and today, this producer makes 98 percent of the output. The remainder is made on nine farms in the departments of the Drome and the Isere, in the foothills of the Alps.
Bleu de Sassenage received AOC status (appellation d'origine controlee, or name protection) in 1998, so its method of production is defined by French law. Its official name is Bleu du Vercors-Sassenage.
Whether produced industrially or on the farm, the cheese must be made with raw cow's milk from a limited zone, all of it inside the Vercors national park right outside Grenoble.
Wheels weigh 9 to 10 pounds, are matured for at least a month - two months for the United States, to comply with American raw-milk regulations - and develop a thin natural rind with a fine dusting of white mold.
The semisoft interior displays plentiful blueing against a golden background.
The texture is buttery and creamy, the flavors sweet and far more mellow than one expects from blue cheese.
Aromas of brown butter and wet stone, the scent of a damp cave.
The cheese's subtlety makes it one of the few blue cheeses that won't compromise a dry red wine. Banyuls, a fortified French wine made from red grapes, is a reliable match for blue cheese.