As a cheese monger, I'm usually the one making the recommendations, but sometimes a customer will pique my interest enough to go seek out a new cheese. This was the case with a customer I met who was looking for some Gorgonzola. He told me about another blue cheese produced very close to his home in the French border with Switzerland, Bleu de Gex.
Made near the mountainous Jura region since the 14th century, Bleu de Gex (officially known as Bleu du Haut Jura) is among the forty AOC protected cheeses in France. The cheese spawned a festival in which the cows were led down the mountain into town. "Nowadays, they really only walk the last bit, a truck takes them most of the way," my customer confided to me.
The first thing I noticed about the cheese was its smell, which is intense and earthy. Depending on your love of blue cheese, it will either help you feel a connection with the grass the cows fed upon or immediately keep you away with it's almost dirt-like odor.
The taste is salty and acidic, with the earthiness carrying over. Underneath, I found a nice sweetness that reminded me of slightly fermented grapes and nuts. The flavors linger, affirming its place at the end of the cheese board or following a meal.
For pairing, it would be excellent with a bottle of Vin Jaune, also produced in the Jura region of France. Normally, I'm not one to default into the mentality of pairing cheese with wines of the same region, since often an area will produce a variety of wine and many won't go with the chosen cheese. But Vin Jaune, with it's nutty strong flavors, would definitely compliment it's fellow local cheese.
Bleu de Gex is available for $11.95/lb at Blue Apron Foods (two locations at 438 7th Ave. and 814 Union St., both in Brooklyn) and $11.99/lb at iGourmet.