2 minute read

One of the more exciting things about traveling to another country is trying the food. Of course there are foods that are defined by the destination. Europe is a great destination for cheese lovers. With so many varieties of cheese you could easily nibble your way around the continent.The cheeses are outstanding. Have you ever wondered why?

Of course there is a lot that goes into crafting amazing cheese and it truly is an art. Just as an artist must have the right medium, the preferred light, the ideal subject and, most of all, the gift to create, so too does the cheesemaker. The right kind of cows, their diet, the weather, the biodynamics that marry animals to plants and more all come together to produce something so unique and palate pleasing there’s an entire culture devoted to the process.

Here we take a look at the role of the affineur. They are truly experts in the creation of cheese. They understand all aspects of cheese maturation and the intricacies necessary to transforming raw cheese into the rich and sumptuous fare we enjoy so much.

The Importance of Cheese Affinage

The affineur cares for the cheese-a rudimentary baby when it arrives into their skilled hands-and coaxing it to perfection through time and patience. Let’s find out more about this process and what makes the affineur so crucial to the creation of legendary cheese.

The origins of cheese affinage date back to ancient times when it was a very essential and critical part of the cheesemaking process. Of course the skills and art of affinage have only improved over time.

Based on expertise the affineur takes on the meticulous process of selecting which cheeses give themselves to the intricate process of affinage. Not all cheeses make the cut. The affineur must take into consideration the ripeness, quality and potential of the cheese to develop and mature to perfection.

The Affineur Transforms Cheese

The affineur uses a variety of techniques and tools to cosset the cheese to its full potential. The affineur may rub or brush the cheese with a salt water solution or they may incorporate the use of other liquids in bathing the cheese. These include wine, beer, cider and hard cheeses may be rubbed with oil or lard in order to extend the ripening period.

It’s really amazing to think that all cheeses begin with the basic cursing process. From there it’s the affineur who cultivates the cheese to its identity. By mastering each stage of development and understanding how they affect the final outcome the affineur is able to advance the flavors and textures in order to arrive at the unique outcome that gives us such a variety of luscious cheeses.

The Careful Role of Affineur

The central role of the affineur is to guide the cheese to maturation. As the cheese journeys to maturity the skilled affineur may incorporate additional care through more washing, spraying, rubbing, piercing and patting the cheese. These methods, honed over time, are used to enhance the flavor, texture and aroma of the cheese. Affineur taste the cheese at different points in the ripening in order to guide them.

The Science of Affinage

Even though the affineur is often referred to as a “sorcerer of cheese” there really is a science behind what they do. Understanding the scientific principles of cheese ripening is crucial to the job and the outcome of the process. The temperature and humidity as well as the microbial action must be fully understood for the success of the affinage.

Time, Patience and The Slow Food Movement

The greatest quality an affineur can possess is patience.The affinage process takes time to ensure a successful outcome. Some cheeses develop and mature in months, others may take years.

Affinage is a wonderful example of the Slow Food Movement and it’s impact on quality products. The core values of the Movement are agricultural sustainability, artisanal craftsmanship and preservation of cultural heritage. The affineur promotes all of these and more. The affineur supports the local food production systems and small scale cheese making.

Visit a cheese Affineur is included in our Tours to Piedmont and Veneto.

 cheese Affineur