What is Abbaye de Cîteaux? The Historic Monastery with a Cheesy Legacy

Abbaye de Cîteaux (FRANCE) - Cheese Origin

Nestled in the heart of Burgundy, France, lies a historic gem that has been a silent witness to centuries of monastic life and tradition – the Abbaye de Cîteaux.

But this ancient monastery isn’t just known for its rich history and spiritual heritage. It’s also home to an age-old craft that tantalizes taste buds around the world.

Welcome to the world of Abbaye de Cîteaux cheese, a creamy indulgence that carries within its flavors, the whispers of time and the legacy of monks who have perfected the art of cheesemaking over hundreds of years.

In this post, we’re going to embark on a flavorful journey, exploring the unique attributes of this cheese, its fascinating origin, and why it continues to be a beloved choice for cheese aficionados globally.

Quick facts about Abbaye de Cîteaux

Country of OriginFrance
RegionDijon, Burgundy
MilkRaw cow’s milk
ClassificationSoft, washed-rind
Age2 months
Known forOrigin of the Cistercian monastic order, Cheese production
ProducerAbbey of St Nicolas de Citeaux
TasteMild, nutty, earthy, creamy, milky, sweet, gentle acidity
Weight and Shape750 g (1 lb 10 oz), round shape
SizeDiameter 18 cm (7 in), Height 4 cm (1.5 in)
TextureSoft interior paste, semi-soft and supple exterior
PairingBeaujolais, Bourgogne, Volnay or any light Burgundy wine

What is Abbaye de Cîteaux?

Abbaye de Cîteaux cheese

Abbaye de Cîteaux cheese is a renowned French cheese produced in the Cistercian Abbey of Cîteaux, located near Dijon, France. This artisanal cheese is crafted by the monks of the abbey using milk from the monastery’s own herd of Montbéliarde cows.

The cheese is a soft, washed-rind variety that develops a bloomy, orangey-pink rind as it ages. The interior is creamy and supple, with a pale ivory color. It has a mild yet complex flavor profile that can range from milky and sweet to more earthy and nutty, depending on its age.

Abbaye de Cîteaux cheese is typically aged for about three weeks before it’s ready for consumption. It’s often enjoyed with light-bodied white wines like Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, which complement its rich, creamy texture and nuanced flavors.

It’s worth noting that the production of this cheese is small-scale, making it somewhat of a rare find outside of local French markets. But for cheese enthusiasts, the hunt for Abbaye de Cîteaux cheese is often part of its allure.

In terms of serving, it’s a versatile cheese that can be enjoyed on its own, paired with fruits, or used in cooking. Whether you’re a longtime cheese lover or a curious foodie, Abbaye de Cîteaux cheese offers a unique taste of monastic tradition and French culinary craftsmanship.

Note: This cheese was founded around 900 years ago but it was only in 1925 that the resident Trappist monks began to make this soft and mild cheese.

What does Abbaye de Cîteaux taste like

Abbaye de Cîteaux cheese is known for its distinctive taste and aroma. The flavor of this cheese is often described as medium, with a slightly musty aroma, balanced flavor, and a smooth, rich texture. It is also noted for its very fruity taste, adding another layer of complexity to its profile. The milk for this cheese comes from Montbéliarde cows which graze the area around the Citeaux Abbey, contributing to its unique flavor.

The cheese has an earthy aroma and a creamy texture. It’s relatively milder compared to other washed rind, Trappist-style cheeses. When fresh, it’s best consumed within a few weeks of purchasing to maintain optimal freshness and flavor. Furthermore, the cheese has a greyish-yellow rind that adds to its rustic appeal.

While the production of this cheese is small-scale (only 300 cheeses are manufactured every Monday and Tuesday), its taste and quality have garnered it a dedicated following among cheese enthusiasts. The majority of these cheeses are sold at the Abbey shop, making it a sought-after specialty product.

Abbaye de Cîteaux Tasting Notes

  • Appearance: The cheese has a bloomy, orangey-pink rind and a pale ivory interior. It’s a soft, washed-rind variety that’s supple to the touch.
  • Texture: It has a creamy and smooth texture. As it ages, it becomes more supple and develops a melt-in-your-mouth quality.
  • Aroma: The cheese gives off a slightly musty aroma which is a characteristic of washed-rind cheeses. Some may also detect a faint smell of fresh hay or grass, reflecting the diet of the Montbéliarde cows whose milk is used in the cheese-making process.
  • Taste: The flavor profile of Abbaye de Cîteaux cheese is complex. It starts off milky and sweet when young, but as it matures, it develops earthy and nutty undertones. There’s also a hint of fruitiness that adds to its unique taste.
  • Aftertaste: The aftertaste is mild yet lingering, with hints of butter and nuts. This makes it a delightful choice for savoring slowly.
  • Pairings: The cheese pairs well with light-bodied white wines like Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, which complement its rich, creamy texture and nuanced flavors. It can also be enjoyed with fruits, crackers, bread, or as part of a cheese platter.

What pairs well with Abbaye de Cîteaux?

Abbaye de Cîteaux

Food that goes well with Abbaye de Cîteaux

CategoryFood Pairings
FruitsApples, Pears, Grapes, Figs
NutsWalnuts, Almonds, Hazelnuts
BreadsBaguette, Sourdough, Multigrain Bread
SpreadsFig Jam, Apricot Preserve, Honey
CharcuterieProsciutto, Salami, Chorizo
CondimentsWhole Grain Mustard, Pickles, Olives
VegetablesRoasted Red Peppers, Marinated Artichokes, Sun-dried Tomatoes
SeafoodSmoked Salmon, Grilled Shrimp, Tuna Tartare
SweetsDark Chocolate, Shortbread Cookies, Fruit Tarts

Also read: What Fruit Goes on a Charcuterie Board?

Beverage that goes well with Abbaye de Cîteaux

CategoryBeverage Pairings
White WineChardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier
Red WinePinot Noir, Beaujolais, Merlot
Dessert WineSauternes, Late Harvest Riesling, Port
BeerBelgian Trappist Ales, Wheat Beers, Pale Ales
CiderDry Apple Cider, Pear Cider, Cider with Honey
SpiritsBrandy, Calvados, Cognac
Non-alcoholicSparkling Water, Grape Juice, Apple Cider

Also read: Best Wine and Cheese Pairings: The Ultimate Guide

The History and Origin of Abbaye de Cîteaux

Abbaye de Cîteaux cheese has a rich history that is deeply rooted in the traditions of monastic life at the Citeaux Abbey, located in Burgundy, France.

The Citeaux Abbey was founded on Saint Benedict’s Day, 21 March 1098, by a group of monks from Molesme Abbey seeking to more closely follow the Rule of St. Benedict. The abbey was established by Robert de Molesmes and later reformed by St. Bernard.

While the abbey itself dates back about 900 years, it was only in 1925 that the resident Trappist monks began to make this soft and mild cheese. The cheese is produced from the unpasteurized milk of the abbey’s white Montbéliarde cows.

Abbaye de Citeaux is a very small production monastic cheese still made within the walls of the Citeaux Abbey. Today, it is a popular cheese known for its soft texture and mild flavor.

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