German vintner's luncheon

A couple of years ago I had a chance to help with the grape harvest on the Kaiserstuhl, in southern Germany. We capped a morning of serious hustle along rows of vines with a vintner’s lunch, served on a portable trestle table in the midst of hilly vineyards. The sturdy fare, mostly cheeses that ranged from mild and nutty to veined and tangy, provided a welcome respite from snipping grape clusters and grape buckets.

Last week, in Alsace, on the other side of the Rhine, I was hungry for cheese after two months away from Europe’s dairy wonderland. This harvest season, I was after stinky cheese, the more pungent the better.

I found it just outside the medieval gate in Turckheim, in the form of a tarte flambé topped with ripe cheese from the nearby village of Munster.

The tarte came to the table as it should, on a wooden board. Brick-red circles of rind framed cheese, melted chocolate-like into sticky splendor. Atop a thin crust spread with cream, onions and bits of bacon, the Munster cheese provided heft, and wafted a gooey promise kept with every bite.

Later, at L’Epicerie in Equisheim, I bought a round of Petit Munster Gerome that perfumed my car all the way home. Double-bagged and Zip-locked, the cheese still managed to assert its presence in the refrigerator until it was time for my own vintner’s lunch a couple of days later. I consumed this one indoors, sheltered against a rainy day. Thankful to be inside, I could picture the harvest workers of Alsace doing double duty in the rain, pushing to get the grapes in as the weather turned.

In a country that celebrates its cheeses, Munster-Gerome (AOC) is the local standout for Alsace and neighboring Lorraine. A ripe Munster smells very strong; locally it is often eaten with cumin or potatoes boiled in their skins. At least two Alsation wines pair well with the stinky stuff: try a Gewürztraminer or Pino Gris d’Alsace.

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This post is part of Wanderfood Wednesday, of Wanderlust and Lipstick.


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