Affinage (AH-fee-nahj) (noun) French: maturing; the art of refining [cheese].
The necessity for affinage begins with our love of cheese. As long as people have been making cheese they have been trying to figure out how to make it better.
How do affineurs affiner? Well, it all starts with sourcing. Finding the best cheese is not as easy as you might think. Out of the hundreds of different cheeses out there, there may be even dozens of people making one version or another. Affineurs taste a lot of cheese. They must have vision and experience. A young, or bright, tasting cheese may not advertise any faults until it matures, so the selector has to taste in between the lines for the real diamonds. Then the cheese must be nurtured. They are brushed to keep the rind breathing properly, flipped to distribute minerals evenly, washed to keep moisture, or even bathed in wine or brandy! All to make it better; all to promote the flavor of the people and animals and land it came from.
So specialized and crucial is the practice of affinage that it has become synonymous with hand crafted, or artisanal cheese. Often the cheese maker will also be the affineur just as they are usually the caretakers of the milking animals, but there are also those who commit to looking after the cheese full time. This can be quite advantageous for the cheese maker by allowing more time and resources to perfecting the cheese they are creating and possibly develop new cheeses. The affineur watches the cheese as it develops and may provide invaluable information on how the cheese may be improved; after all, even the most talented of affineurs cannot make a bad cheese good, they can only encourage it to find its own potential!
Artisanal Premium Cheese presents the Affinage Collection.