By Beryl Peters; Jan Barnes

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If it is not ammoniated and you like the contrast of textures, by all means eat it. If it is strong or diminishes your pleasure, cut it away. Both approaches are correct. With a flavor and texture almost identical to Brie, Camembert calls for a similar wine choice (see page 138). A buttery Chardonnay without obvious oak makes an appealing match, as does sparkling wine or a Grüner Veltliner at the richer end of its spectrum. For a red, choose a medium-weight wine with modest tannin, such as Merlot.

The rounds must be encircled with a strip of spruce bark to guard against the cheese collapsing when ripe. Over the month or so of their maturation, the disks are repeatedly washed with brine to encourage the growth of desirable bacteria on the surface. As the cheese ripens, the rind develops a crusty and rippled appearance. If perfectly ripe, L’Édel de Cléron can be molten enough to eat with a spoon, but retailers tend to sell the cheese younger than that. Most likely, the texture will be oozy but still sliceable, the fragrance redolent of mushrooms and earth.

Age concentrates the flavor and deepens the color of Comté. The interior may be ivory if made from winter milk, or more yellow if made in summer from cows that dined on carotene-rich pasture. With age, the color darkens to gold and the aromas of hazelnut and brown butter intensify. At any age, the texture will be smooth, never granular, and the flavors will be impeccably balanced between sweet, salty, and tart. Look to the rich, spicy white wines from Alsace, such as Pinot Gris or Riesling, or to an off-dry Vouvray or dry amontillado sherry.

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Cheese & wine by Beryl Peters; Jan Barnes
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