But, as it turned out, a whole Carboncino, the star of this month, costs £4.25. So with the addition of small slices from two other cheeses the total came to £7.54. And we're not going to quibble about going four pence over, are we? Especially as the other selection cost me only £6.06. Actually, because I've signed up to the Cheeseboard's newsletter, I got a discount of 15%, so the grand total for all six cheeses came to £11.56.
The tasting notes in each of these posts have, up until now, been written by Robbyn, the shop's manager. However, she seemed to think that it was perfectly O.K. to flit off to the good ol' U.S. of Stateside for a family gathering without first checking if I was due for a visit. Luckily, the damage any such flagrant and haughty disregard for customer satisfaction might have caused was more than offset by the help and advice proffered by her colleague Lucy. These are her notes:
no. 8: piave vecchio, quartirollo lombardo and raschera
Piave Vecchio comes from the northern Italian region of Belluno and is often compared to a more famous northern Italian cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano. Piave’s hard and dense texture comes from pressing the curds before they are placed in hoops, branded with the Piave name. Once the cheeses have been branded, they are left for 12 hours in the “torri di sosta”, or resting towers, before being washed in a brine bath for at least 48 hours. Piave Vecchio cheeses are matured for at least 4 months but often up to one year. The cheese has a rich and fruity flavour, which is sweet and salty at the same time.
QUARTIROLO LOMBARDO (COW'S MILK, UNPASTEURISED)
The name Quartirolo comes from the feed given to the cows during the cheesemaking period. This is the fresh fodder from the fourth cut or “quartirolo”, which is richer in fragrance and flavour than the previous cuts of grass. This originally meant that the cheese used to be only available in Autumn when this grass was cut. Now Quartirolo Lombardo is available all year round but many fans of the cheese think the best ones are made from early September to the end of October. When young, Quartirolo is almost completely rindless. Once mature, it resembles Taleggio, but is firmer in texture with a deeper and less salty flavour. A mature Quartirolo, like this one, is aromatic and full-flavoured, with additional strength coming from the washed rind.
RASCHERA (COW'S MILK, UNPASTEURISED)
Raschera is the traditional cheese of the valleys around Mondovì and the oldest reference to the cheese has been found in a contract from the 15th century. The cheese has DOP status and must be made with milk from one or two milkings drawn on the same day from Bruno-Alpina or Piemontese cows. Raschera has a delicate, almondy flavour with a bit of spice and an aroma of buttermilk and hay.
no. 9: dobbiaco, carboncino and montasio
This is a rare washed-rind cheese produced in the Trento-Adige region of Italy. It takes its name from the Dobbiaco area in the Val Pusteria, but it is also produced in other parts of Alto Adige. It has a sticky rind and a supple texture. The flavours are a balance of barnyard and butter, with a bit of sweetness.
CARBONCINO (COW'S, GOAT'S & EWE'S MILK, PASTEURISED)
This is a beautiful, small cheese from Caseficio dell’Alta Langa in Piedmont. It is made with equal parts cow, goat and ewe’s milk; but the flavour is less “goaty” than other triple milk cheeses from the region, such as Robiola alta Langa. Carboncino is fully-ashed with a growth of white mould, giving it a dappled black and white colour over its patterned rind. The texture is creamy and yielding and the cheese melts in the mouth. Carboncino is relatively new, having only been created a few years ago.
MONTASIO DOP (COW'S MILK, UNPASTEURISED)
Montasio has been made since the 13th century in the region of Friuli Venezia Giulia. The cheese takes its name from the group of mountains in the Julian Alps. It was originally produced by Benedictine monks, at the Abbey of Moggio, using ewe’s milk. Today, it is made with cow’s milk by skimming the cream off the evening milk and then mixing it with the morning milk. The cheese was awarded DOP status (the Italian mark of protected origin) in the 1980s. As a result, only milk from dairy farms in the region may be used and the cheese must be made using slow traditional methods. The flavour of Montasio is delicate and fresh, with notes of sweet grass and hay, reflecting the terroir of the region.