Here’s a new kid on the block, a member of the French AOC cheese family only since 2008. It’s small (just look at the picture!), it’s a lightweight (just 30 grams or so a piece), it’s pretty (with the blue label), it makes itself quite scarce (16 producers get only 35 tons done during one year), it’s a goat cheese, obviously, and it’s called
Rigotte de Condrieu
Now, this funny name would need an explanation. The well-informed Maison du Lait in Paris has it that the title derives from rigol or rigot, two words describing the brooklets pulling through the mountainous region of Pilat in the Rhône-Alpes region of France where our today’s cheese was born at some point in the 19th century. Condrieu is a village down there, some 40 kilometres south of Lyon. You might have heard of the wine of the same name, it’s an AOC as well, and it’s one of these very satisfying heavy whites of the Rhône valley that warm your heart on a cold winter’s night (the neighbours are St. Joseph and Côte-Rotie).
The producers have seen rough times in the last century. By 1930, writes Pierre Androuët, they were forced to dilute the pure goat’s milk with cow’s milk – due to a lack of goat herds at that time and in the region. In 1981 though, the farmers and cheese-makers went back to basics and tradition and re-invented their fabulous cheese, building up a Syndicat de défense to better organize their efforts. You see, not everything in the world is taking the wrong turn…
The tiny cheese is a heavyweight in terms of flavours and taste, especially when it’s no longer ultra-fresh. Mi-sec is the right stage of ripening to enjoy it, the pâte will then be still slightly moist and the rind almost dry and nicely wrinkled. Overall, the Rigotte reminds me of its brothers from the Loire valley, it’s a classic chèvre after all, an elegant little thing, melting in the mouth and coming with decent flavours of nuts. It has well deserved its membership in the exclusive AOC club (and for those of you who read French and who always wanted to know what an AOC is all about, here’s the legal document codifying the AOC Rigotte de Condrieu. It’s written by law-makers = no fun!).
What to drink with it? Easy question. A Condrieu needs a Condrieu, they say, and they’re right. A nice white St. Joseph would be nice as well, just try it out. And try to find a Rigotte de Condrieu at your merchant to further broaden your French cheese education!