Piedmont, which lies in the Alpine foothills of Italy’s northwest region, has long been renowned for its production of food and wine.
Here, in an area known as the Langhe in the province of Cuneo, the Cora family produce a range of superb, leaf-wrapped, robiola cheeses made from goat’s or sheep’s milk - or sometimes a blend of the two.
The cheesemaking business was established in 2000 by Gianni and Paola Cora. Although the couple had previous careers, they were both passionately interested in preserving traditional local foods and after Gianni spent some time training with local cheesemakers, decided to launch their own business. Production of cheese at Cora is now very much a family affair as Gianni and Paola have been joined by their daughter Lorena and son Francesco in the tiny dairy.
Robiola Vite are made in small batches between February and November each year from unpasteurized milk. To form the curd, starter cultures are added to the milk which is then left alone for 36 hours. During this time, the cultures work very slowly to form a fragile curd, known as a lactic acid set. At the end of the process, a very small amount of rennet is added to give the curd a little strength and, once fully formed, it is ladled incredibly gently into the molds to preserve as much integrity and moisture as possible in the finished cheese.
After draining and unmolding, cheeses are individually wrapped in one of a variety of leaves. Chestnut, fig, cherry, walnut, vine and even cabbage leaves are sourced from the local area, picked during the summer months and stored for use as needed. In addition to
protecting the delicate, rindless cheeses, the leaves also impart an individual flavor to each cheese and encourage the growth of specific molds over the course of the two-month aging process.
Cora’s Robiola Vite is wrapped in Muscat grape leaves and has an extremely fragile and yielding texture when mature. Underneath the leaves, the cheese has virtually no rind, save for a few mold spots.
Flavors are delicately aromatic, earthy and vegetal, with a balanced tang on the finish.
Since there are so many flavors going on with these cheeses, they need little in the way of accompaniments although a fruit compote and hazelnuts work well.