Anthony Gismondi on Wine
Thursday, May 23 2024

Fleur de Maquis the Island Cheese

By: Anthony Gismondi
When a cheese goes for a roll in the countryside.

Allison Spurrell has been in the retail cheese industry since 1987, when she and her mother, Alice Spurrell, founded the award-winning Vancouver cheese shop Les Amis du Fromage.

Allison shares her formidable cheese knowledge with our avid newsletter followers who are as curious about cheese as they are about wine. This month, Allison takes us to the French Island of Corsica to taste cheese rolled in the indigenous brush of the French Island.

Cheese Name: Fleur du Maquis

Origin: Corsica, France

Milk Type: Raw sheep’s milk.

Description: Fleur du Maquis is one of my favourite cheeses. It is one of a family of similar cheeses that come from Corsica. They are all made from sheep’s milk, some unpasteurized and some pasteurized. The rounds are usually small, from two hundred to five hundred grams each. Once the cheese is made and is still fresh, the wheels are rolled in “maquis, the native scrub that grows all over Corsica, similar to garrigue, the wild scrub growing in Provence. In Corsica, maquis is often a mix of thyme, oregano, myrtle and nepeta, an indigenous mint, as well as immortelle, a deeply fragrant curry plant and can even include peppers and juniper berries.

The accompanying picture is a crate of cheese we had in the store last week. It is a producer we haven’t had for a while, and we were happy to see it back. This version is made with raw milk and a more herbal mix of exterior coating. The Fromager Antoine Ottavi uses savoury, rosemary, oregano, marjoram, basil, and thyme. These wheels are very young. As they age, a bloomy rind can grow on the outside, and they can look a little mouldy and odd. Even when they look a bit scary, they still taste delicious. The interior paste will get softer as the outside gets fluffier and mouldy, so they can have a different texture depending on age.

Tasting Notes: Like many sheep’s milk cheeses, the actual taste of the cheese before the maquis is added would be quite fruity and light. Once the wheels are aged with this full-flavoured coating, a simple cheese takes on an amazing herbal, earthy taste.

Pairing: I love this savoury cheese served alone as an interesting cheese course. You could enjoy it equally before or after dinner. A slice or two could also be served with an herb salad to make a great welcome to spring. I tend to lean towards white wine pairing with younger sheep cheeses, but I think there are a lot of wines that could be interesting to try. Every time you have this cheese, it’s different, so I don’t think there is one right pairing.

Written By: ag
Anthony Gismondi
Anthony Gismondi

Anthony Gismondi is a Canadian wine journalist and one of North America's most influential voices in wine. For over 30 years, he has been the wine columnist for The Vancouver Sun. The twice-weekly column is distributed across Canada through the Postmedia Network to millions of readers. In addition, Anthony hosts the BC Food & Wine Radio Show, broadcast in 25 markets across B.C. and available as a podcast on major platforms. He launched Gismondionwine.com in 1997, attracting one million monthly users from 114 countries. It continues to be a valuable resource full of tasting notes, intelligent wine stories and videos for the trade and consumers. Conversations with wine personalities are available on his  YouTube Channel.