Time to live

Gourmets beware! For the 9th edition of the Cheese and Wine Festival, the Sofitel Tahiti Maeva Beach Resort and Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora Beach Resort welcome Philippe Olivier, winner of the 2005 Pudlo Trophy and France's best cheesemaker. On the menu, a buffet of 70 cheeses and 110 wines. Divine!

What makes a good cheese maker?

"Understanding people. I can't sell a cheese without seeing the face of the person who made it. A good cheese is the sum of many small details. What breed of animal the producer uses, how he treats his animals. Whether he respects the customs of the country, the region. I have a goat farmer who goes to say good night to his animals every day at 9pm. When you're kind to your animals, they give you good milk and you make good cheese."

When an American walks into your store, what cheeses do you recommend?

"The U.S. government pushes raw milk cheeses away because they know full well that if they opened the door, it would upset their import/export balance, but when Americans come to France, it's not industrial pasteurized cheese they demand, it's real good cheese!"

Stinky cheeses?

"Absolutely! They know the difference. There are traditional French raw milk Camemberts being sold for colossal sums on the black market."

Who do you market your cheeses to?

"I'll give you another one: Churchill said to General de Gaulle 'A country capable of giving the world three hundred cheeses cannot die, France must be saved!' De Gaulle replied: 'A country that produces 365 kinds of cheese is ungovernable!'

What's on the menu at this year's Cheese and Wine Festival?

"We'll be presenting a good forty cheeses each evening. A third of the great French classics, a very good Roquefort, a very good Pont-l'Evêque, a very good Brie. A third will be endangered cheeses, such as the crêmet from Cap Blanc-Nez, currently produced by just one person, who makes 40 a day. The last third will be preparations, like a fourme with sauternes, or brie with truffles."

Can you give us an idea of the cheese and wine pairings you've chosen together?

Daniel Perron: "For example, we'll be tasting Roquefort with a Bagnouls, or a Gewurztraminer. With goats, we'll go for Sauvignon, Sancerre... It's up to us to try and surprise the customer!" Have you ever been surprised by an unusual pairing? PO: "Yes, because wine and cheese aren't canned goods; they're living, seasonal, irregular products. Things are changing, and that's good. Over the past 20 or 25 years, sommeliers have opened our eyes to the fact that 70% of cheeses go better with a white wine than a red. Today, we're realizing that cider or beer can be a perfect match. It's an experience I'd like people to have, at least once in their lives. It's part of the education of the table." What was the last wine you fell in love with? DP: "A fitou made from grenache, syrah and mourvèdre, with an explosion of aromas on the palate, brambles, black fruits... It's not a very well-known appellation, but it's definitely worth trying. You have to be a wine lover first and foremost, not a label drinker..."


What's your ideal cheese platter?

PO: "Six cheeses, one from each major family. A chèvre, a pâte fleurie, camembert, brie or coulommiers; a pâte lavée, maroilles, munster or livarot; a pâte pressée, reblochon, saintnectaire, bleu or roquefort. It's the French art de vivre platter. You can also create a platter by region, or by color: for a christening, for example, you'll choose white cheeses. But you have to choose your wine first, and then compose your platter around it."

A cheese recipe?

"Buy half a Fourme d'Ambert cheese, well marbled and fatty. Hollow it out like surprise bread. Put the blue cheese in a saucepan and let it macerate for 72 to 80 hours in half a bottle of Sauternes or Monbazillac. Knead it well so that there are no lumps. Place it back inside your shell. At the last moment, cut fresh pears around it, like flower petals. Serve this with toast and a glass of sauternes."

Produced by Les Nouvelles neuves de Tahiti

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