In a country where the dairy cow has been erected as a national symbol, Jean-Robert Henchoz’s decision to build himself a herd of 700 dairy sheep, the largest in Switzerland, was unprecedented. After spending a decade making cow’s milk cheeses in the high mountains of the Vaud region, Henchoz decided to specialize in sheep, starting his own organic sheep farm in 2000. From that time, he has increased his range of yogurt and cheese products by one each year, working alongside his son, his son’s wife and his grandchildren.
While Le Sapalet products are primarily produced using sheep and goat’s milks, this cheese is produced using cow’s milk purchased from a neighbour. The organic milk comes from a flock of twenty purebread Simmental cows, a rustic breed with horns. The cows graze up in the high mountains during summer and feed on local hay in winter.
Le Sousbois has a very thin bloomy rind and an buttery, gooey yellow paste. Discs are aged while wrapped in spruce bark, which imparts its woodsy, smoky flavors into the cheese, especially into the outer edges. The name is appropriate; separated into two words, sous bois would literally translate into ‘under wood,’ while le sousbois itself means ‘undergrowth.’ The cheese is fittingly earthy and mushroomy, with aromas reminiscent of wet grass. Spruce coating and a pronounced lack of salt bring its intense earthy qualities a step further.
Pair Le Sousbois with a crisp and slightly hoppy summer ale, a Champagne or a Bordeaux.