Named after the market town, just north of Aix in southern France, production of Banon takes place throughout Provence. Granted AOC (name protected) status in 2003, the AOC rules state that Banon can be produced using whole, raw sheep's and/or goat's milk.
Production of Banon requires fairly rapid coagulation of the milk, a part of the process that originated due to the hot climate of the region. Within a few hours of renneting, the curd is cut and gently ladled into molds. Cheeses are turned several times within the first 12 hours, are unmolded after 24 hours, and are salted and dried for five to ten days before being encased inside four or more chestnut leaves. The leaves are gathered in the autumn when they have fallen off the trees, and are held in place around the cheese with raffia.
Some Banon producers sprinkle their cheeses with pepper, summer savory, thyme or bay leaves. Occasionally the leaves and raffia are dipped in vinegar or eau-de-vie, which has the effect of sterilizing them as well as imparting flavor.
Banon must be matured for a minimum of two weeks. However, with further aging they become soft and sticky, often adhering to the chestnut leaves, and acquire a stronger, more intense flavor.
With the protection of the chestnut leaves, the Banon inside remains soft and pliable. Unwrapping these little parcels reveals a rindless, often sticky and moldy cheese that smells vegetal, goaty, yeasty, and savory all at the same time.
Flavors are complex and full, and therefore the best accompaniment is often a simple crusty baguette and a glass of dry white wine.