Rove Brousse : soon to be France’s smallest PDO?

It’s a matter of a few days, and the ten small-scale producers of the historic Rove Brousse, a Slow Food Presidium, will have a protected designation of origin (PDO): it may be the smallest yet in France. The work towards creating the 46th cheese PDO, which have been going forward for 10 years of patience and determination, now seems to be finally finished.

Only the last validation from the INAO is now lacking, a formal provision as the production protocol is already complete and was approved some time ago. The good news came out during one of the events organized at Cheese, where Luc Falcot, the President of the Rove goat herder’s association, told the story of the Presidium.

Traditionally prepared using milk from the Rove goat, a rustic breed well suited to the dry hills of the Provencal interior, Rove Brousse is a fresh unsalted cheese with soft crumbly paste. The fresh cheese is ladled into small conical containers and sold at markets, in local restaurants or to purchaser groups. It can be consumed for 4 or 5 days after production: its intensity and persistence are truly extraordinary for such a fresh cheese. Rove goats eat tough plants in scrubby countryside —Thorny Broom (Genista scorpius) and Kermes Oak (Quercus coccifera)—which give the cheese a distinctive flavor.

The contribution of these goats to the management of the land is fundamental: by feeding themselves on shurbs and foliage they help avoid a build-up of dry leaves that can easily catch fire during hot summers. Thanks to its modest needs, it resists in lands where few resources are available. Rove Brousse is now a victim of its fame and in recent years shops have sold versions of Brousse prepared using milk from other goat breeds, as well as industrial cow’s milk. Real brousse cheese is much sought-after and the herders have no difficulty selling it. Their objective, however, is to preserve it from commercialization, in order to conserve tradition and allow for further generations of small-scale herders to produce in the ancient manner. The danger comes from industrial producers who want to make a profit off the backs of it. The challenge is important: to preserve the image of a product of its terroir with a unique taste and, indirectly, safeguard an animal breed, the Rove goat, and all the ancestral knowledge connected to pastoralism.

For this reason, it’s important to protect the Rove goats and the cheese made from their milk, by agreeing on some precise points in the PDO: the exclusive use of raw milk from pasture-fed Rove goats, produced only from the small town of Rove and the dry areas of the Bouches du Rhone pastures, to the south Vaucluse and the western border of Var.

The research and preparation of the PDO request was carried out by experts from INAO (Institut national de l’origine et de la qualité) that, within a few days should publish the long-awaited validation. In the meantime, the herders of Rove, proud to have worked according to particularly rigorous rules in order to secure a future for the Rove Brousse cheese and the Rove goats, are preparing a grand celebration.

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