A small creamy cheese called La Tur has been gaining a hefty number of groupies in recent years. If you're one of its followers, we bet you may not know that it belongs to the robiola family, a small subset of cheeses that come out of the north of Italy. They're all oozing and unctuous, and all consistently worthy of your next cheese purchase.
The term itself is pretty loose. "Robiola" refers to a small-format cheese that's been made from a mixture of milks. Those made from the milk of one animal do exist, but traditionally, it's a mix of whatever you may have around, or from what you can cull from your cow-, sheep-, or goat-rearing neighbors.
Robiolas abound in small little towns all over Piedmont and Lombardy, the most traditional of which you'll find there, unfortunately. Most of them are young and made with raw milk, which relegates them to places far, far away from the honing eyes of the FDA. But what is imported is pretty undeniably delicious. A dairy in southern Piedmont, Caseificio dell'Alta Langa, produces excellent examples: La Tur, Robiola Bosina, Rochetta, and Brunet.
Gianni Cora, another cheesemaker out of Piedmonte, also makes excellent — and, inexplicably, raw — robiolas. If you can find them, his leaf-wrapped Robiola Rossa, Robiola Foglie di Noce, and Robiola Vite are excellent. We haven't seen them around in a couple of years, though... anyone, anyone?
All of these happen to belong to the bloomy rind family of cheeses, but the guidelines for a robiola doesn't necessitate that quality. What they all share is a subtle, sweet funk, a quality that seems to accompany any well-made, super-creamy robiola.
Not to be forgotten is fresh robiola, found in a little foil wrapped cube. It's endlessly fluffy and light, reminiscent of cream cheese or a lite version of mascarpone, but higher in moisture and much more spreadable.
Robiolas are seemingly simple cheeses, but beneath their mild youthfulness lingers a truly delicate, nuanced collection of flavors, perhaps brought on by the combination of milks and traditions that make up each of their various recipes.
Related: The Cheesemonger: What's Your Epiphanal Cheese?
Image: Flickr member jspace3 licensed under Creative Commons.