It's always a dilemma when that thing you love so much is priced beyond what is reasonable for you to pay. Der Scharffe Maxx is an amazing Swiss cheese that unfortunately has no pricing wiggle room and must be a $25/lb retail, any way you slice it (so to speak). Bergenuss Swiss, on the other hand, is the new alternative on the cheese scene and it excites me to no end. I can accept $25 and even $30/lb cheeses but it sure is nice to find comparable quality like Bergenuss for just $20/lb.
Berggenuss (literally-mountain treat) is a recent creation of Franz Renggli of Oberberg Mountain Dairy in the village of Entlebuch, Switzerland. The dairy is an organic operation in Entlebuch which is itself an ecologically protected environment under the aegis of UNESCO. The cheese is a raw cow milk creation sourced from fifteen dairies around the village located at 2,700 feet altitude and cheesemakers will always credit the high altitude vegetation for their resultant unique cheese flavors.
Berggenuss is a nine pound wheel measuring ten inches across and three inches deep with defined corners as if punched out of a mold disk-style. It has an orangish-tan colored naturally thin rind with a semi-hard light golden yellow paste interior puntuated with just a few random holes and cassein crystals. Berggenuss also has a beautiful Alpine label with green trees in front of white mountains and lots of blue sky behind them. This is just the second time I have ordered Berggenuss but as soon as I unwrapped it that label let me know this purchase was going to be just fine.
So what excites me so about this cheese? Well I mentioned Der Scharffe Maxx at the beginning and that is a cheese I have flippantly called "the best cheese I have ever sold". This one is very similar to Maxx. They are both heat treated (but not pasteurized), smear-ripened, high altitude cheeses. What does that mean? In short, they stink. Not a lot, just enough to whet your appetite with grand expectations of things to come, like when you near an old favorite haunt and smell the memories of long ago.
To be more precise, these aromatic cheeses are slightly spicy, slightly sharp, and slightly barnyardy with more specific aromas of aged beef, grass, toasted walnuts, and garlic. Am I communicating now? It's complexity I'm talking about here. And the best part is that the cheese taste is still mellow, even silky, with all of the attributes listed above in contained quarters and not running wild, although I have read that if aged further than the normal six months, the cheese flavors are much more pronounced.
I would pair a light red wine like Barbera or Pinot Noir with Berggenuss although complexity in food flavors always opens new avenues for exploration. Maybe the safest bet would be a rich malty ale!
On Thursday at 7pm at our weekly class we'll take a look at Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the noble grapes of Burgundy, France. On Friday the 15th, David Klepinger of Northeast Sales joins us for a tasting of new Califonia wines in the marketplace. Please join us for those tastings.