The Good: Tastes good, Melts well
The Bad: Fairly expensive, Not terribly sharp or distinctive
The Basics: A good cheese, Yancey's Fancy Finger Lake Champagne Aged Cheddar Cheese is unfortunately unmemorable as a softer cheddar with little actual champagne flavor.
One of my true loves in life is good and great cheeses. Several months ago, I began enjoying the cheeses of Yancey’s Fancy and as I move my cheese reviews over to my private blog, I am quite eager to get into their cheeses that I have loved. Unfortunately, I started with one of their less robust cheddars. Consider, however, that the usual mild cheddar only rates about a 3 with me and this is not exactly a panning! Stay tuned for some truly remarkable cheeses reviewed by me from Yancey’s Fancy! That said, Champagne Aged Cheddar . . .
Yancey's Fancy is a small cheese company in Upstate New York (where we are actually known for cheese). They specialize in making "artisan chesses," which are fancier cheeses designed more for enjoyment on their own as opposed to as a garnish of other things.
The Finger Lakes Champagne Aged Cheddar Cheese is one of Yancey's Fancy's New York Artisan Cheese, distinguished by its dark green wax coating. This is a pasteurized process cheddar which is aged for an undefined number of months (it does not say on the package, but we assume more than six months). As a result, it is a somewhat softer cheddar cheese equivalent to a standard mild cheddar. It is very easy to cut with a cheese knife or cheese plane and it does not fracture like many, sharper, cheddars might. Because this is a fancy cheese, it is a bit more expensive than some of the more common brands and locally we find it at about $10.99/lb. for the Champagne Aged Cheddar.
Ease of Preparation
Well, this is cheese, not constructing a perfect soufflé, so preparing the Finger Lakes Champagne Aged Cheddar Cheese is as easy as slicing open the plastic package and removing the green wax that surrounds the actual cheese. The wax is not at all poisonous, but there is no reason I can find to eat it. Fortunately, it peels off of this soft cheddar very easily. One need only be attentive to the temperature surrounding this cheese as it will melt at higher temperatures. At room temperature, it may sit out and it retains its shape nicely without getting soft in any way that makes it awkward to simply cut and eat pieces of it.
When used on a burger, this melted at a decent speed and was quite good. It handles like a standard cheddar for melting needs.
The essential aspect of any cheese is how it tastes and here is where a cheese-lover like myself feels a little cheated by Yancey's Fancy's Finger Lake Champagne Aged Cheddar Cheese. The Finger Lakes Champagne has an entirely inoffensive smell, truly only effervescing at room temperature. It has a subtle, distinctly cheddar scent, much like the smell of a mild cheddar cheese when it is melting on toast. There is a faint sour afterscent which insinuates to the palate that this might be a sharper cheddar than it actually is.
Tasting the Finger Lake Champagne Aged Cheddar Cheese is a mixed experience. Most people who enjoy cheddar will find this to be exactly what they expect of a cheddar; it is slightly softer than most cheddars, but has a distinctly cheddar cheese taste (some things define themselves and cheddar cheese tastes like cheddar cheese) with a very subtle aftertaste to it of something a little tangier. The tang is presumably the champagne flavor and I've had more zest in straightforward cheddar cheeses that are simply sharper. If a good sharp cheddar has a kick much like an alcohol or sour fruit punch, one might expect a cheddar flavored with champagne to have something distinctive to it, either a kick or a fruit flavor that makes it different from other cheeses.
Alas, this is not the case with the Champagne Aged Cheddar Cheese from Yancey's Fancy. At best, it has a slightly sour and tangy aftertaste about equivalent to the initial hit from a sugar free sourball (the type one gets in the bulk food section). The taste fades almost immediately and this is a cheesy cheddar which tastes only like the baseline of what it is supposed to. That makes it virtually impossible to recommend to those looking for a distinctive cheese to serve at parties or as part of a unique and interesting cheese-sharing experience.
That said, the light tang of Yancey's Fancy Finger Lake Champagne Aged Cheddar Cheese is accented beautifully by simple wheat crackers with or without salt. The dryness of salt on a cracker seems to activate within the cheese a slightly more enduring flavor than the cheese on its own. It holds the light tang longer, even if it does not make the cheese more tangy or flavorful in any other meaningful way. A flavored cracker - even a Triscuit - is likely to overwhelm what flavor this cheese does have.
On the plus side, this cheese has no aftertaste. Unfortunately, once the taste fades from the tongue, it dissipates completely, even from memory. And it DOES have a little more tang than a standard cheddar cheese, but it does not have the kick of a sharp or extra sharp cheddar.
Nutrition is something I only add to reviews because other people seem to like that sort of information going into it. My partner smacked me when she made a comment about calories in something and my response was, "I never actually pay attention to that sort of thing." That said, the ridiculous recommended serving of this artisan cheese is 1 oz., which the packaging estimates at approximately a one inch cube. Even cheeses that don't grab me seldom net so little consumption in a single sitting!
This is a cheese, so it's not like it is going to have a health food value to it. That said, the recommended serving size has 110 calories, eighty of which are from fat. Yes, good cheeses have fat in them and this is no exception. The Finger Lake Champagne Aged Cheddar Cheese has no trans fat, 9 grams total fat of which five are saturated fat. That represents 25% of the RDA of saturated fat, so those who use this in recipes will pretty much be damning themselves to a week without any other saturated fats (or, if you make macaroni and cheese with it, figure two or three weeks without any other saturated fats!). As well, there is 9% of the RDA of cholesterol, 11% of the daily sodium, 20% of one's needed calcium and 6% of your daily Vitamin A in the cheese. There is a negligible amount of carbs (less than a single gram) and 6 grams of protein. In other words, this is not the greatest food to try to live on on its own.
Even so, having reviewed a lot of different foods, this is not the worst food in the world by any stretch of the imagination. The ingredients are quite simply aged cheddar cheese, champagne, a lone preservative (trisodium citrate), and champagne flavor. That makes it mostly natural and that is a refreshing change from many mass-produced cheeses. This food is - obviously - a dairy product, but it contains absolutely no alcohol.
This is a cheese, so some care must be maintained in its handling. Refrigeration is recommended (actually, it doesn't mention that on the package, but it seems like common sense to me) and under cool, dry conditions in its package, our Finger Lake Champagne Aged Cheddar Cheese would have lasted until early February, 2010 (about six months). Regardless of what the packaging does or does not say, this is a dairy product and should not be kept at or above room temperature longer than it must.
Because this is a softer cheddar, it does not fracture so clean-up is usually as simple as wiping the blade of whatever one is using to cut the cheese with. If it is melted and ends up on clothing, be sure to consult your fabric's care guide. On its own, Yancey's Fancy Finger Lake Champagne Aged Cheddar Cheese should not stain any clothing or dishware.
This is a good cheese, but for the expense and the advertised flavor being champagne, I would have expected something more zesty or robust. Instead, it is unmemorable and a startlingly average cheddar. Given that it is pricier than most, it is easy to pass this one by.
For other foods reviewed by me, please check out my index page.
© 2010, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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