Made in the Pays de Herve region of Belgium, this small, potent cheese is a testament to the regionality of cheese flavours.
Herve, with its distinctive square or rectangular shape has been made in the area for over 800 years; there are mentions of Herve in writings going back as far as 1230. That is a history that is hard to rival in the cheese world. It makes sense that a cheese with such a long history has its own PDO and AOP status. The European mark of PDO, protected designation of origin, and the AOP, appellation of protected origin, should help to maintain another 800 years of enjoying Herve, if we’re lucky.
This unique washed rind cheese has a reddish brick coloured exterior, with the typical tacky texture of the style. The paste of the cheese is straw-coloured with a dense texture and a few small holes. The cheeses are washed by hand for four, six and even eight weeks depending on which Herve is being made. There are the three main varieties – mild, strong (ripened for longer) and Remoudou (made using full cream milk), as well as some styles that are washed with Belgian beer or juniper spirits.
Although Herve has a robust flavor, I find it very different from a typical washed rind cheese. It doesn’t seem to have a lot of that earthy, vegetal flavour that is common. Instead, it has a distinctive fruity taste that ends with a little salty kick. In Belgium it is eaten with everything from black coffee to dark beer, but I have found it to be a great match with a wide variety of wines. At a recent staff tasting, we tried it with a variety of aromatic whites and it was great with all of them. I have also had success serving it with richer reds, so it's very versatile.
The only problem with this interesting cheese is that people pronounce its name as Her-vay, like the man’s name, but it’s just Herve ("harve"). Show off your proper pronunciation on your next trip to the store and pair it with an interesting bottle of wine.