Valençay

Valençay is situated in the central Loire Valley on a hillside overlooking the River Nahon. The town is known for its pyramid-shaped Valençay cheese made from raw goats’ milk.

The commune was formed by the amalgamation of three settlements: the “Bourg-de-l’Eglise”, the “Bas-Bourg” and what is called the “old quarter.”

Distinctive in its truncated pyramidal shape, Valençay is an unpasteurised goats-milk cheese weighing 200–250 grams (7.1–8.8 oz) and around 7 cm (2.8 in) in height. Its rustic blue-grey colour is made by the natural moulds that form its rind, darkened with a dusting of charcoal. The young cheese has a fresh, citric taste, with age giving it a nutty taste characteristic of goats cheeses.

The cheese achieved AOC status in 1998 making Valençay the first region to achieve AOC status for both its cheese and its wine.

Tale has it that Napoleon having returned from his disastrous campaigns in Egypt stopped at the castle at Valençay. Their local pyramidal cheese apparently aroused unpleasant memories as he alleged then cut the top off in fury with his sword leaving the shape that survives to the present.

The curd is drained and placed in a mould. After being removed it is covered with charcoal dust and left to ripen in a humid, ventilated room. Affinage lasts for three weeks during which time its characteristic external mould forms and the central pate – initially crumbly – softens.

The cheese is available between March and December, with peak manufacture between April and August.

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