Cheese superstars from the Auvergne

THE BIG doors close behind us and we’re underground, enveloped in cool, moist air. The smell is overwhelming: heady, frowsty and thick. It’s an unmistakeable, unforgettable odour. With the flick of a switch, row after row of fluorescent lamps blossom overhead, revealing two long benches that disappear into the distance; resting here, as far as the eye can see, is cheese.

Felix Malvezin strides ahead, then stops to carve off three chunks of cantal for each of us to chew on; each piece is about the size of a good wedge of brie. We munch our way along the tunnel, Felix pointing out the new arrivals, with their whitish-yellow skins, and the mature cheeses, covered in a reddish bloom.

For 30 years this old railway tunnel was forgotten, save for local kids who would run into the cavernous darkness as far as they dared. In the 1960s this and four other disused tunnels in the vicinity were turned into caves, maturing cellars, for the famous Auvergne cheeses.

Quality in Every Whiff, The Sun-Herald, November 26, 2006

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