France is particularly well-known for the diversity of its cheese products, from Roquefort through Comté or Reblochon, not forgetting Fourme d’Ambert and Camembert, to mention but the most renowned.
Indeed, there are so many varieties that Charles de Gaulle once said, “How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?” Probably this estimation of French cheese if done today could go as high as 400 varieties, though with the sub varieties on offer, some say it’s closer to 1,000.
This extensive selection includes cheeses made from cow’s, ewe’s or goat’s milk, or in combination.
Normandy, France’s kingdom of milk and cream, is famous for Camembert and Pont l’Evêque; the Loire Valley and Provence for the tangy goat’s milk cheeses; Alsace for robust Munster; the Alpine region for firmer, subtly-flavoured cheeses, such as Reblochon; the Paris area for Brie de Meux — even from the Pyrénées comes Ossau-Iraty, that brings herbaceous flavours with chocolate touches to your palate!
Each region produced cheese is reflective of their “Terroir”, which defines the taste and quality of a product. The concept is so important to the French that it’s protected, along with traditional cheese-making methods. The label Appellation d’Origine Controllée (AOC), later replaced by the European Appellation d’Origine Protégée (AOP), sets the standards, the ingredients, methods and geographic location required for a cheese to carry a specific protected name.
The main types of French Cheese
Three families of cheese:
French cheeses can be divided into three main families:
– pressed cheeses, such as Cantal Entre Deux
– soft cheeses, such as Camembert
– blue cheeses, such as Bleu D’auvergne among others
And they are further divided into cheeses “fermier” from farmhouses, made of raw milk while “laitier” is the commercial, manufactured cheese version from pasteurised milk.
France, as you might know by now, is the perfect destination to develop a cheese palette, and experience an entirely new culinary facet. In the next blog posts we will try to explore all the French geography, analysing all the diversity with great aromas and flavours.
Some regions we will cover include:
– Basc Country,
– Provence and Rhone,
– And the Pays de la Loire region.