Re-created in 1989 by French cheese maker Patrick Beaumont with the help of the renowned chef Pierre Troisgrois, Lavort is produced by the Fromagerie de Terre Dieu in the Auvergne region of France.
Legend has it that the cheese was originally crafted by a young peasant called Guillaume as a tribute to his mentor, Baron Lavort, who was killed during the Spanish Crusades. In the course of his Crusading adventures, Guillaume was taught the art of cheesemaking by the Monks of Compostella in Spain, and the sunken-topped cheese that they made at the abbey reminded Guillaume of the great volcanoes and mountains of his native Auvergne. Upon his return, Guillaume started making the cheese from the milk of his flock of Lacaune sheep.
Today, this raw milk cheese is still made with the milk of Lacaune sheep, a breed that is native to the Massif Central region. Between April and November the sheep are on pasture, and during the winter are fed meadow hay and suppliments of cerials and vegetable proteins. They are never fed silage.
The shepherds are paid according to the quality of the milk, thus encouraging a high standard.
For production, the milk is gently heated to the same temperature as the bosy heat of the ewes. This helps to preserve the integrity and flavors of the milk. After coagulation and draining, the curd is cut into blocks and each block placed into a mold lined with cheese cloth.
Cheeses are turned (flipped) several times to ensure even moisture distribution and drainage before being unmolded and placed in a brine (salt water) solution for 24 hours. This helps to promote the formation of a rind.
Finally, the cheeses are transferred to maturing rooms where they are aged on fir wood boards at a temperature below 50˚(10˚C) and high humidity for between 3-6 months before release.
The exterior appearance of Lavort is unique, with each wheel appearing like a flattened boule, with its distinctive “well” on the top and bottom surfaces. The rind is a rich earthy color and rustic in appearance. The interior texture is ivory colored with a fairly open textured paste, dotted with “eyes” or holes.
Flavors of Lavort are mild and slightly sweet with distinct notes of hay, earth, smoke and bacon.