Goats kind of freak me out. When I was a child, we were hippies, and that’s another story and another book. Suffice it to say that hippies and goats have a symbiotic relationship that has left goat flavoured scars on the tongue of many a hippie child. The thing is, goat milk really, really, really tastes like goats, and goat hooves, and barns and goat crap. There is no subtlety to the flavour at all, you can’t just “sneak a little goat in” and hope no one notices. Oh no! That will never happen. Goats are also kind of creepy. Their pupils are horizontal, which makes them look kind of satan-y…and they will eat anything. Really. Anything. I once knew a goat that ate the door off an outhouse. And a pair of jeans. That’s also another story.
Interestingly, when it comes to cheese made of goat’s milk, my goat bias seems to mellow. I do prefer cow or sheep, but there’s something about a controlled rot for a minimum of 60 days that just smartens a goat milk right up for me…now how about soaking it in alcohol for 3 days before letting it “mature,” doesn’t that sound good? That’s the premise behind today’s cheese, Cabra al Vino, also known as Cueso de cabra al Vino, Murcia al Vino, Murcian wine cheese or Drunken Goat, which is-let’s face it-just the best name for a cheese ever.
Cabra al Vino is the second of my Spanish threesome-I mean “trio” of cheese tapas, and is a pasteurized goat’s milk cheese submerged for three days in Doble Pasta wine (Mourvedre grapes) for 72 hours before the maturation process, staining the rind dark purple. Interestingly, many hours of my youth were also stained with wine before maturation, so I do feel a connection to this cheese already. It’s from the village of Jumilla, in Murcia, Spain. This cheese was actually quite challenging to research because it has at least 5 names commonly used, and that’s the first time I have run into this phenomenon-there have been a couple of other cheeses with one alternative name, but five seems a little over the top. One has to wonder if it’s the goats, or the wine responsible for this. That being said, I think one can pretty safely go into a cheese shop and ask for “Drunken Goat” and they should be able to help you out.
Cabra al Vino is a DOP cheese, or Denominacion de Origen Protegida-which means that this cheese is guaranteed to be authentically produced and only contains milk from the pure Murcian Goat, which as everyone knows, is the best goat milk in all of Spain. As mentioned yesterday, there is a long history of cheese making in Spain reaching back to the Roman times, if not before. I haven’t been able to pinpoint exactly when Drunken Goat came onto the cheese scene, but as it has DOP status, it is clearly a well established and respected cheese in its own right.
It’s kind of fun to think of how this cheese first came into being. Do you suppose a simple goat’s milk cheese erroneously rolled off a Spanish goat herder’s table into an open vat of wine? Three days later, they were like, “now where’s that cheese?” and after searching under tables and chairs started to fish around in the wine. The cheese was stained purple, but what the heck, and voila…”Drunken Goat” was invented. Maybe not, but I do like the idea!
My tiny little tapas sized triangle of Cabra al Vino is pure white with a purple wine rind-technically this is a washed rind cheese, I should mention that-although it doesn’t reek like most of them. It’s got a spackle of tiny holes through the paste. The smell is-well, goaty, but not too overwhelmingly so. There is that sweet fruity smell which is perhaps the wine? There is no hint of amonia or rot, it’s quite mellow in that respect. The cheese is fairly firm to the touch.
Yup, this is a goat cheese, alright, no mistaking that. It’s actually quite salty and a little acrid, like the hoof of a goat that’s been running though the ocean and then walked through some ashes from a beach bonfire, and then you licked it. Yes, that’s what it tastes like. I don’t taste the wine at all, there are no fruity notes, so I’m not sure how that factors into the cheese taste. It’s got a nice paste, it does have a good cheesey chew to it, it’s certainly not squishy or floppy like some appalling cheese. You know, it’s a perfectly reasonable cheese, if you are looking for a slice of salty goat to eat, but it’s just not my bag. Too much goat baggage-that’s my problem. Blah, I need to wash my tongue. Freaking goats.
Cabra al Vino, I give you a 2 out of 5 which is appallingly unfair and reflects my own bias against goat’s milk. You really should have a higher score, if only for your plethora of names including “Drunken Goat,” but I realize I’m giving all cheeses at least a three, so some poor cheese has to take a hit for the team. That being said, why I am I eating a second piece of you, hypocrite!