Feleacu, jud Cluj
Goat’s cheese based on a French recipe
It was about five years ago, when I was serving a goat’s cheese bruschetta for a tasting, that someone suggested I put honey on it and pair it with a Sauvignon Blanc. While for many that’s a classic pairing, for me it was a revelation. And the cheese, although made in the French style, was produced here at home: the classic La Colline roll.
La Colline, a family business started by veterinary doctors Marcela and Ovidiu Spânu, is a producer of premium goat’s cheese. The couple’s passion was sparked on a study trip to Nantes, in France’s Loire Valley, which has a tradition of raising goats and making cheese from their milk.
The dairy is located on the southern slope of Feleaculi, in the village of Valcele, near the owners' home and a quarter of an hour’s drive from Cluj-Napoca. Cheese production at La Colline began in 2007 when the Spânus decided to give up their veterinary surgery in the city to move to a quiet area nearby.
The La Colline brand combines the Transylvanian relief and its rough translation into the language in which cheese occupies such a sacred place.
The cheeses are made from goat's milk, using a traditional French recipe. Milk is collected from farms in central and northern Transylvania, and the products vary by taste, ripening time, shape and weight. The best known and sold are the traditional rolls with Provence herbs, while the most sophisticated and popular among gourmets are the Roquefort-style blue cheeses or Camembert with its white rind, which, although less in demand, have their devotees, including me!
The Spânus have put the accent firmly on diversification. Their cheese range has been expanded to include fresh milk, yogurt, kefir and cream spreads. If you’re in the area, the dairy also has a shop selling all its products.
The easiest way to serve these cheeses is on bread or salted crackers, to which you can add honey, jam, nuts, and even dried meat or fish. Classic rolls, with herbs or ash, lend themselves readily to salads or tarts. To fully feel the aromas and texture, remove the cheese from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving.
The traditional rolls and herbs of Provence, even those with charcoal or party platters, can be found in Romania’s major chain stores (Carrefour, Metro, Cora, Auchan, and Kaufland, at the delicatessen counter). The other products can be purchased online here.
These cheeses go best with white wines, but why not give them a whirl with other varieties too?
Some pairings that we enjoyed:
• dry white wines such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling de Rin, Feteasca Regala
• dry rose wines from Merlot or Pinot Noir
• young dry reds such as Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Novac, Pinot Noir
Did you know?
Goat’s cheese is whiter, unlike cow or sheep’s cheese, which have a yellowish hue. This is because goats live in rocky environments, and their bodies have evolved over time to transform (yellow) beta carotene from grass into the (colourless) vitamin A needed to strengthen their bones and protect them from various diseases.
Cows and sheep, meanwhile, have large pastures available, so they consume a surplus of beta carotene (Provitamin A) for their needs, which remains in their milk. Goat's milk, unlike the other milk used to make cheese, has a specific "goat" smell that is more noticeable in fresh cheeses (for example, goat sticks). This is owing to the presence of saturated fatty acids (caprylic, capric and caproic), which make up about 15% of the fat content of goat's milk.