Cheese of the Month: Chabichou de Poitou, an ancient French goat cheese with many textures

Chabichou du Poitou, a multitextured goat from central western France.

I've always found the dramatic aging cycle of a fresh goat cheese to be a miracle of dairy science.

But as you watch a wrinkle-rinded beauty like Chabichou du Poitou morph over a matter of weeks from a tall cylinder with a soft and pasty center to something with a creamy liquid halo flowing just beneath its crust, then eventually dry out with a denser heart of chalky, creamy firmness, it is even more striking.

At my preferred Chabichou moment, which Downtown Cheese often offers at its stand in the Reading Terminal Market, this cheese is practically a runner on the plate, so lusciously gooey and glossy just beneath its rumpled crust that I'm amazed it still manages to stand up when whole.

But when you cut inside and the liquid flows, there's still a firm core of that pure white fresh cheese hiding at its center, providing not just two textures (three if you count the edible crust), but also two subtly different flavors.

What's so good about a proper Chabichou, an origin-protected cheese from the Haut Poitou in central western France that dates its history to the Saracen rulers of that region in the eighth century, is that the taste of good goat's milk is always pure and prime -- like a breezy day on the farm in spring.

The older versions simply become nuttier and mildly spicy in an herbal, grassy kind of way. Try it with a bottle of good sauvignon blanc (Sancerre, please!) and enjoy the miracle of that cheese — and this pairing while it lasts.  

Chabichou du Poitou, $13.99 4.4 oz., Downtown Cheese, Reading Terminal Market  215-351-7412; on Facebook

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