Raclette cheese is made on both the Swiss and French sides of the Alps but the cheese bearing the name Valais Raclette is the most famous .The Valais Raclette (namely cheese made in the Valleys of Bagnes, Goms, Les Haudères and Orsières) is made according to ancestral methods. There is no denying that the unique climate and alpine meadows in the area have an effect on the quality of the milk produced there. A semi-hard cheese made from unpasturised cow’s milk Valais Ralette cheese has a distinctive aromatic flavour, brushed brown/orange coloured rind, light-yellow coloured body, fragrant creamy but firm texture, with scattered holes and has an ideal fat and moisture ratio that prevents the cheese from separating when melted.
Traditionally, Raclette is produced in a three pound (6kg) 11-inch round wheel, aged for three months and brushed daily with a brine. The resulting cheese is pale yellow, with small holes throughout and a brownish orange rind. Varieties now exist that mix in white wine, peppercorns, herbs or are smoked.
Although the cheese has a pleasant enough flavor, it is not special until it is heated in front of a fire or under a hot grill. Then the full nutty, sweet and slightly fruity aroma intensifies and the elasticity of the melting cheese makes it truly magnificent. It is used in a dish called raclette, the name is derived from the French verb racler (to scrape). Also known as Valais Raclette, the generic class name is Walliser. It is a hard cheese with a subtle flavor, good aftertaste and firm texture. Raclette is pale yellow inside. Raclette is famous for a Swiss dish, made by melting thin slices over broiled potatoes.
The texture of the Raclette is very smooth and it seems to melt in the mouth even without heating. The aroma is strongly reminiscent of the farm with a mixture of fruit and wine aromas. The taste is usually equally strong, with rich wine-like notes, and a tangy accent. The cheese is made with pasteurized part-skim milk and aged over 60 days.
If you must drink wine with this (oh go ahead and force me) probably follow the rule of thumb of mixing the cheese with the locale varieties. Fendant, made from that most Swiss of grapes, chasselas, is a good choice. Being Swiss, it’s a bit overpriced but the light taste and floral notes seem to sit well with the heavier faire and warm cheese. There are a couple of good Canadian and New Zealand chasselas around too. Failing that, wine from the Savoie region of France such as a riesling or a pinot gris will be just fine.