During the Agricultural Forum held yesterday at Cheese 2003, Slow Food and ONAF (The Italian National Organization of Cheese Refiners) made an official proposal to establish a professional register for cheese affineurs. The announcement was made by Piero Sardo, President of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, who made a joint statement with Jacques Dubouloz, a crémier fromager affineur from Annecy (France), Carlo Fiori, from Guffanti of Arona (Novara), and Giandomenico Negro, a cheese grader and affineur from Bubbio in southern Piedmont.
“It is necessary to give proper recognition to this little-known profession: the cheese refiner, who selects and buys cheese from small producers, keeps and ages it so as to enhance its characteristics to best effect, and becomes the link between cheesemaker and consumer,” said Piero Sardo.
“This operation is not just a simple transfer of goods, but involves processing an already good product into the finest expression of its local area’s cheesemaking tradition. The affineur must be able to perform this activity with the knowledge and skill required to understand and enhance the identity created by the cheese’s origins,” stated Carlo Fiori.
“In France there is a certificate for the profession of affineur, which is awarded by a body similar to the Chamber of Commerce. For AOC products [European PDO products – ed.], it is necessary to comply with the regulations laid down by the various rules which specify the minimum time various types of cheese have to remain in their place of origin. After that the affineurs can be involved with their skill and aging rooms, where cheeses are left to mature under the conditions most suitable for developing their optimum organoleptic potential.”
“This seems to be the best approach,” concluded Piero Sardo. “A regulatory regime is required to enable consumers to distinguish between those who are just storing cheese under cool conditions and those who are actually refining it. But we need to be careful not to generalize: each cheese is different. The rules governing production, PDO or Slow Food Presidia protocols, specify the time needed for the bacteria to get established in the cheese and give the imprint of the local area and the producer. The affineur adds another three fundamental elements: savoir faire, passion and patience”.
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