The Auvergne, with its extinct volcanoes and high plateaus, has mountain pastures that are home to a diverse range of flora. You can still find gentian and licorice, saxifrage, arnica, monkshood and wild anemones here today. The fertile volcanic soils and the water so abundant in the Massif Central create excellent pastures with an abundance of various herbs and grasses in the most natural way.
Alpine farming has a long tradition in this mountain region with its harsh climate. The rustic and hardy Aubrac and Salers cattle breeds are at home here.
Their cows produce relatively little milk, but it is very fatty. From late spring to autumn, the shepherds let their animals graze on the highest mountain pastures. Some still do this today! During this period, the shepherds lived in burons, sturdy, slate-roofed buildings that doubled as their dwelling, cheese factory and aging cellar, as the milk was processed there immediately, as they were too far and too long away from the major markets.
This cheese is still made in the traditional way today. In addition to the farms, the dairies also produce Saint-Nectaire, in roughly equal proportions. At La Cantine d'Augusta, the farmer's cheese (its green label is oval!) is preferred because the farms milk twice a day and cheese production begins immediately after milking. This gives the cheese a unique, nutty and slightly coppery aroma, which is created by using vats in which the milk heated to 32 ° C coagulates with the addition of rennet.
The curds are crushed, after draining, cut to the size of a grain of rice, pressed into the molds by hand, labeled and salted. Then it is pressed into the mold, taken out to dry and placed on racks for two days.
Then comes the special feature of Saint Nectaire: it goes into the cellar of an affineur. Often it is a cave where it has to be cool to ripen a Saint Nectaire. At around 10 °C over four to six weeks, the Saint Nectaire develops its aromas of hazelnut, mushrooms and cellar. During the ripening phase, the cheese is rubbed several times with salt water, which promotes its gray or sand-colored rind and helps it to achieve its optimal aroma. A creamy, wonderfully fragrant dough is hidden under the noble mold bark.
So much manual work is required to produce this divine cheese, whose qualities were already praised by Marshal Henri de Sennecterre at the table of Louis XIV.
Saint-Nectaire tastes best in summer and autumn because the milk then releases all the aroma of the flowers that the cows have eaten in the pastures.
A special feature of Saint-Nectaire is that it goes better with red wine than white wine. We recommend trying it with a Saint Emillion from Château Brun or a Gaillac from Domaine Rottier.
Have fun tasting!