What do you get when you merge two favorites, wine and cheese, into one delicious bite? Drunken goat cheese (murcia al vino), a DOP cheese from the Murcia region of southeast Spain, where you might also see it called queso de cabra al vino. The purple rind develops in a red wine bath, which also gives the semifirm cheese a slightly fruity flavor and definite wine aroma. The taste suggests the sharp tang commonly associated with goat cheese, but in a mellow "I-want-everyone-to-like-me" sort of way. Those who generally pass on goat cheese may be surprised by the decidedly un-goaty drunken goat.
- Country of origin: Spain
- Source: Goat's milk
- Color: Bright white paste and purple rind
- Rind: Wine-washed, thin, and edible
What Is Drunken Goat?
Drunken goat cheese comes from the town of Jumilla in Murcia, a region in southeastern Spain. It's made from the pasteurized milk of local Murciana goats. The whimsical name reflects its soak in the region's doble pasta red wine. It's an exceptionally creamy, bright white, semifirm goat cheese with a fruity flavor and a purple rind. Though it's not as widely available outside of Spain as the better-known manchego, many cheese shops and larger grocery store cheesemongers carry it. It's also available from some online grocery retailers; you should expect to pay a premium price for it.
Can You Eat the Rind?
You can eat the wine-washed rind on drunken goat cheese. It should taste mildly of wine, with a fairly soft, thin texture.
How Drunken Goat Is Made
To achieve DOP certification, this specialty cheese must start with the fatty, protein-rich milk from the region's Murciana goats. The free-ranging animals feed on the wild herbs and grasses growing in the arid Mediterranean region, giving the milk a distinct flavor particularly well suited to cheese making. Starter culture and rennet added to the pasteurized milk cause curds to form. They get drained and pressed into wheels, which soak for two to three days in red doble pasta (double paste) wine, a twice-fermented, high-alcohol, deep, dark wine made with extra grape skins. After soaking, the cheese ages for two-and-a-half months.
Because of the distinctive characteristic achieved by the wine bath, the only close substitutes for drunken goat cheese would be similar varieties produced using the same methods in other countries. You could try Italy's formaggio ubriaco, an unpasteurized cow's milk cheese aged in red wine or sparkling prosecco, or France's tomme au marc, an uncooked cow's milk cheese aged in wine pomace.
Drunken goat makes a conversation-starting addition to a cheese plate, and its relatively mild flavor puts it at the lighter end of a balanced taste spectrum. Serve it with other Spanish accoutrements such as Spanish chorizo, Marcona almonds, and olives. The sweet creaminess and grape aroma also make it a good choice for the dessert course.
You can use drunken goat cheese in casseroles, grilled cheese sandwiches, and hot dips. Try it thinly sliced on sandwiches or shredded on a pizza or a salad.
Fruity red wines (especially those from Spain) pair well with drunken goat cheese. But it really goes with almost anything, so feel free to enjoy it with your favorite cocktail or beer as well.
Store drunken goat cheese wrapped in parchment or wax paper with a second layer of foil or plastic wrap or placed in an airtight container. It should last for two to three weeks this way. For best flavor, bring it to room temperature on the counter for about 30 minutes before you serve it. If you see mold on the surface, you can simply cut it off with about a 1-inch safety margin. It's safe to freeze drunken goat cheese, but it's generally better to cook with it afterward as any textural changes won't be so noticeable.
Drunken Goat Recipes
Drunken goat cheese may be best enjoyed on a cheese board, but you can also put a twist on recipes by swapping drunken goat cheese for other mildly flavored semifirm cheeses such as provolone and mozzarella.