Made by the Benedictine monks at the Abbaye de Notre-Dame de Belloc in the western Pyrenees, Abbaye de Belloc is made using pasteurized sheep's milk sourced from the breed of red-nosed Manech ewes.
Although the recipe is based on another classic sheep's milk cheese of the area, Ossau Iraty, the origins of Abbaye de Belloc are relatively recent, as it was developed by the monks in the 1960's. While the original version of Abbaye de Belloc was made using raw sheep's milk, the switch to using pasteruized milk took place around 2009. Despite this change, farmhouse sheep cheese production in this mountainous region is resolutely seasonal, with cheesemaking taking place mainly between December and the end of July.
After production, wheels of Abbaye de Belloc are aged for four to ten months prior to release for sale. The youngest wheels are made in December and sent to market in April, while the older cheeses are those made in July and held until the following April or May.
The rind of Abbaye de Belloc is coated with sweet paprika that gives the cheese a reddish hue, overlain with brown and grey molds. The texture is firm and supple and the interior paste is dense, smooth and ivory in color.
Flavors of Abbaye de Belloc are typically sweet and mild, with a pleasant brown-butter aroma and hints of nuts and caramel.