Brie de Meaux
Produced in the region of Brie, located just to the east of Paris, Brie de Meaux dates back to Roman times. This classic French cheese has been consistently loved for at least 400 years, but it rose to popularity during the 19th century, largely thanks to the French statesman Talleyrand, who introduced it at a diplomats' dinner. As a result, it was considered by many to be the finest cheese in Europe.
Granted AOC (name protected) status in 1980, Brie de Meaux's affinage, or maturation, must take place within specified regions of Seine-et-Marne, Loiret, Aube, Marne, Haut-Marne, Meuse, and Yonne, though it is made by many producers. The region's proximity to Paris has undoubtedly helped Brie de Meaux's widespread appeal and reputation.
Made with raw cow's milk, Brie de Meaux can be produced either industrially or artisanally. The process requires very gentle handling of the curd to allow for maximum moisture retention within the curd. Cheeses are allowed to drain under their own weight, and surface moisture rapidly evaporates due to the large flat shape of the cheese.
When ripe, Brie de Meaux should be covered with a white bloomy rind that results from the Penicillium Candidum mold. With age, the white mold frequently becomes dotted with patches of red or brown. The best time to eat Brie de Meaux is when at least half the thickness of the cheese is ripe, soft, and yielding, with an interior color of straw. Brought to room temperature, its paste is smooth and velvety.
Brie de Meaux is sweet and buttery, reflecting the high-quality of the milk used in production. Expect notes of mushrooms and almonds and milky, rich aromas.
Pair with mellow white wines like chardonnay, fruity red like Chinon, or blonde ales.