Bleu de Sassenage

Various laiteries
Rhone Alps
12 ins diameter, 4 ins high
10-11 lbs
Semi Soft

Produced just west of Grenoble in southeastern France, the origins of Bleu de Sassenage are recorded as far back as 1338.

Its importance was recognized in a charter created by Baron Albert de Sassenage which established the right of the inhabitants of Villard-de-Lans to sell their cheeses unhindered. The village also had its own breed of cattle, the Villard, that produces high protein milk for cheese production and this practice continues today. (It's interesting to note that a few years after the charter, some cheesemakers decided to move to the Gex area where they established Bleu de Gex, a very similar cheese to Bleu de Sassenage.)

Over the years production of Bleu de Sassenage has declined sharply, especially during the 20th century with the advent of refrigerated transport. Many dairy farmers and cheesemakers abandoned cheesemaking, instead choosing to sell their fresh milk on the open market.

Recently, the resurrection of Bleu de Sassenage was undertaken by a local dairy near Grenoble. They relaunched the cheese and their production now accounts for the overall majority of wheels made. Remaining wheels come from nine producers in the "Departments" of the Drome and the Isere, in the foothills of the Alps.

Made from raw cow's milk, Bleu de Sassenage was granted AOC designation (name protection) in 1998. The AOC rules stipulate that cheeses must be produced within the region contained by the Vercours National Park, near Grenoble.

The texture of Bleu de Sassenage is dense and close and supple, shot through with fine blue-green veins. The color of the interior paste varies from butter-yellow to ivory depending on the season, and cheeses have a thin, brown rind.

Aromas are of brown butter and damp cellar. Flavors are delicate, balanced and fruity with
notes of hay and almonds, and a slightly sweet finish.

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