St. Nectaire is a semisoft, washed-rind cheese from the Auvergne region of central France. Milk for production comes from the Salers breed of cows that feed on the rich, volcanic pastures of the mountainous Auvergne.
The soil, wild grass and rich, raw milk all contribute to the cheese's complex taste. The pasteurized version of St. Nectaire does not have the same spectrum of flavors associated with the raw milk version. Affinage takes five to eight weeks on rye straw mats - which also impart a distinctive flavor to the cheese. Any younger than this, and the smell and taste do not develop sufficiently.
St. Nectaire has a washed rind that becomes grayish-purple with age, dotted with white, yellow and red molds. The paste is supple with a silky texture that is heavy on the tongue and resistant to the bite. It melts in the mouth to reveal a slight acidity and also tastes of cellars, mushrooms, nuts and hay.
Cheeses with an oval label indicate fermier production cheese. Those with a square label are industrial. Produced mainly in the southwest of Puy de Dôme, the manufacture of St. Nectaire is protected by AOC laws.
The aroma and flavor of St. Nectaire are extremely closely intertwined. It has earthy, pastoral aromas and the flavor is creamy, rich and redolent of freshly cut grass, sweet hay, meadow flowers and wild herbs.