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French Cheese Tasting at the Seattle Cheese Festival

In addition to the cooking class at The Harvest Vine I attended one other seminar at this past weekend’s Seattle Cheese Festival.  I wasn’t actually scheduled to take it but then M called me as another friend wasn’t feeling well and they had tickets for the “Tour de France des Terroirs”, a class focused on French cheeses and understanding how terroir affects the taste and characteristics of each cheese.  
The class was led by two very interesting and knowledgeable instructors.  Laure Dubouloz of Herve Mons Affineur Company and Francois Keautret, Vice President at Peterson Cheese Company.  The first thing I learned is that an affineur is a person who finishes cheese.  So the farmer or cheese coop starts the cheesemaking process and gets the cheese through it’s first month or two of life and then they are handed off to a company like Herve Mons for the final aging.  These affineurs will have caves in one or more locations, where the cheese is stored and, depending on the type of cheese, the may also complete the final washes or other processes necessary to get the cheese to its ready-to-be-sold state.
For this class we sampled twelve cheeses from six regions in France.  We were also provided with a selection of wines to go along with the cheese.  
For each region, Laure and Francois would talk about the influences in the region that affect the animals used to produce cheese, the local flora that might impact the flavor of the cheese and other elements such as climate, history or terrain.  It was very interesting!  Then we would try one or more cheeses from that area.  Generally, for each region we tried cheese from different animals – cow, goat, or sheep and sometimes a blend from two. 
The six regions we “visited” were:  Normandy; Loire; Jura; Savoie; Pyrenees; and Auvergne.  
This was a really great class and I think I may have a new way of participating in the cheese festival!  I loved the amount of information and the ability to really taste and learn about each cheese, plus the information they provided for us to take home was very complete and will be a useful reference in the future. 
I’m already looking forward to next year’s event!

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