Taleggio: A Tale of Two Stinky Cheeses

August 14, 2010

This is a tale of two Taleggios.

Last week, we were on vacation and purchased Taleggio for a picnic and decided not to evaluate it outdoors.  We really liked the Taleggio then, and since we enjoy writing up stinkier cheeses, we purchased another sample in San Francisco for Cheese Chatter.  Our two samples–Taleggio #1 and Taleggio #2–were surprisingly different.

Taleggio

First, Taleggio is a semi-soft cow’s milk cheese from Italy.  It has a moist pale orange rind that is firm; the cheese’s paper label adheres to the rind yet it is easily removed with a dull knife .  Taleggio is springy and slightly sticky to the touch.  When slicing the cheese, its interior is gummy but it spreads easily.

Taleggio is a stinky cheese.  Taleggio #1 was quite smelly and before we had unwrapped it, its aroma had permeated the picnic box.  Its odor is similar to dirty gym socks.

Tallegio #1 had a definite sour milk flavor from start to finish, with a saltier finish.  This cheese had deep flavor that lasted long on the tongue.  It is a thickly creamy cheese that is satisfying in the mouth.

Unfortunately, Taleggio #2 paled in comparison to the first.  We anticipated a pungent cheese, but its scent was closer to cooked milk.  Taleggio #2 did not have the same flavor or depth as Taleggio #1; it had a slightly sour flavor, but this was over-shadowed by a strong salty flavor.  Taleggio #2’s aftertaste was pronounced, but it was unpleasantly salty, like a snack food.

Taleggio #1, purchased pre-wrapped at Whole Foods (Long Beach, CA), was a lovely and enjoyable cheese.  Taleggio #2, cut to order for us at 24th Street Cheese Company (San Francisco, CA), was a poor cousin in comparison and proved disappointing.

What can explain this?  Cheese flavors are affected by many circumstances along the chain from the initial animals creating the milk (water and food consumed) to production, then storage, and finally human consumption.  It is possible that our two Taleggios came from different regions, different producers, were stored and handled differently post-production, or were at a different age when purchased.

Which of our samples is a better example of Taleggio?  We definitely preferred Taleggio #1 and my reading suggests that this is a better example of the cheese.  I would definitely purchase Taleggio #1 again, but would like to avoid Taleggio #2.

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