Cheeses in France - The Guide to French Cheese

Many countries are known for their great cheeses, but French cheese is especially known for having exceptional flavor and texture.

If you're looking to try one of France's yummy cheeses, you may have found that it's easy to get lost in all the terminology. This guide was written to help you so you won't be at a loss when standing in front of rows of cheese at a fromagerie (that's French for a store that sells cheese) and so you can find exactly what you want!

Not sure what kind of cheese you like? Whether you crave something mild, medium, strong, piquant, or sharp, there is a cheese that will fit your particular tastes.

Brie is a soft cheese with a flavor that is slightly reminiscent of butter.
Brie is a soft cheese with a flavor that is slightly reminiscent of butter. | Source
Brie is an extremely popular French cheese that is often used as a "stuffing" for savory pastries.
Brie is an extremely popular French cheese that is often used as a "stuffing" for savory pastries.

Camembert & Brie

Although Brie and Camembert each have a distinct flavor, they are made in a similar way (and are actually very closely related.) Both cheeses are made from cows’ milk and penicillium camemberti bacterium, which is similar to penicillin that is used as an antibiotic. (Those who are allergic to penicillin have to be careful when eating either Camembert or Brie) Both are also soft & creamy, surface ripening cheeses that look alike. However, the similarities end there.

Brie was first created during the 8th century in the region of Brie (modern day Seine-et-Marne, near Paris.) Camembert didn't make an appearance until much later in the 1790s after a farmer in Normandy received advice from a priest visiting the area from Brie. While Brie is produced from cows grazing in stony pastures, Camembert is made from the milk of cows grazing in green pastures.

Both cheeses are now made in flat wheels, but Camembert was originally high and cylindrical. If you're looking for a cheese to bake into a yummy pastry, Brie is it. (Although it's also yummy uncooked.) Camembert loses its flavor when heated so it's primarily served raw and eaten with bread or meat. Both cheeses are amazing eats with a sliced apple!

Cheese
Milk
Texture
Produced
Brie
Cow
Soft-ripened
Ile-de-France
Camembert
Cow
Soft-ripened
Normandy
Époisses de Bourgogne
Cow
Soft, washed rind
Côte-d'Or
Tomme de Savoie
Cow
Semi-soft
Savoie
Roquefort
Sheep
Semi-hard
Roquefort-sur-Soulzon
Reblochon
Cow
Soft, washed rind
Haute-Savoie
Epoisses de Bourgogne pairs really well with strong red wines as well as spicy white wines.
Epoisses de Bourgogne pairs really well with strong red wines as well as spicy white wines.
Tomme de Savoie, with its nutty flavor, is used in many French recipes.
Tomme de Savoie, with its nutty flavor, is used in many French recipes.

Époisses de Bourgogne

This pungent, strong-odored cheese made from cow’s milk is generally left un-pasteurized. The cheese has a dark orange rind which is from the cheese being washed in brine and later with a red wine, usually burgundy. It is washed in brine primarily to achieve the strong flavor that Époisses de Bourgogne is known for.

For those looking to pair this cheese with wine, it's good to remember that Époisses de Bourgogne pairs wonderfully with Burgundy wine, which makes sense since both the cheese and wine are made in this area. Hailing from the famous region of Burgundy, this cheese is made in the village of Époisses which is not only known for this wonderful cheese but for which Château d'Époisses which is a beautiful medieval castle. Those visiting the area to catch a glimpse of the castle should also stop to get some of this wonderful cheese as well as a bottle or two of Burgundy's amazing wines!

Roquefort is a blue cheese made in the south of France from sheep's milk.
Roquefort is a blue cheese made in the south of France from sheep's milk.

Tomme de Savoie

There are many different types of Tomme cheese. Each type of Tomme cheese is generally identified by the region they are made in. Different varieties of this cheese includeTomme de Grandmère ,Tomme Boudane, Tomme au Fenouil, Tomme d'Aydius, Tomme Affinée, Tomme de Crayeuse, Tomme du Revard, and, of course, the most famous variety, Tomme de Savoie. This cheese made in the Savoie village located in the French Alps.

Tomme de Savoie, is a semi-solid cheese with a beautiful gray-brown rind with a pleasant nut-like flavor and silky texture. Because this cheese is made with skim milk, it is known for its low fat content. Tomme cheese is used in a popular French dish known as aligot which is made from mashed potatoes, Tomme cheese, and sometimes garlic is also added.

Which of the following cheeses is your favorite?

  • Époisses de Bourgogne
  • Tomme de Savoie
  • Camembert
  • Brie
  • Roquefort
  • Reblochon
See results without voting

Roquefort

Roquefort is a blue cheese made from sheeps’ milk. This rindless cheese is known for being white, tangy, slightly moist and crumbly with green veins. The exterior of Roquefort is salty whereas veins of the cheese are where the distinct tang lies. The flavor of the cheese begins mild, becomes sweet and smoky, and then finishes salty.

In France there are many cheeses and wines that can only be called a name if they follow strict guidelines. One of these guidelines is solely based on the region of France a product is made. This is known as appellation d’origine contrôlée (controlled designation of origin) and is shortened as AOC. Interestingly enough, when the AOC was developed Roquefort was the very first cheese to be regulated and controlled.

There is very strict regulation on this cheese, for example, only made from the milk of Lacaune, Manech and Basco-Béarnaise sheep can be used in the production of this cheese per AOC regulation. Also, Roquefort can only carry the name “Roquefort” if it has been aged in the Combalou caves in Roquefort-sur-Soulzon. One interesting fact about Roquefort is that it contains as much as 1280 mg of glutamate per 100 g of cheese which means it has the highest level of glutamates out of any naturally produced food. This cheese is also of political importance as in 2009, US Trade Representative Susan Schwab, announced a 300% tariff on the cheese which was the highest tariff placed on European goods that year.

Reblochon comes from the French word 'reblocher' which means 'to pinch a cow's udder again.'
Reblochon comes from the French word 'reblocher' which means 'to pinch a cow's udder again.'

Reblochon

Reblochon cheese is produced in the Savoie region of the Alps, and until the 1960s it was also produced in the Italian areas of the Alps. Reblochon is a washed-rind cheese with an extremely soft texture making it even softer than Brie.

Reblochon is made from the second milking of a cow which results in the very rich flavor of the cheese. This second milking was done as farmers in the area were taxed on how much milk their cows produced. The farmers would purposefully not fully milk their cows to avoid heavy taxation. This practice resulted in a particularly rich milk that was perfect for cheese making. Reblochon has a nutty flavored with an herbal aroma and is best paired with a white wine or a fruity red wine.

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Comments 8 comments

FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

Sharing this with my travel partners for an upoming French vacation. Thanks for explaining these. I know only a bit about cheeses but am eager to try them in France.


Glass-Jewelry profile image

Glass-Jewelry 3 years ago from Presezzo, Italy

Last Sunday I invited friends from France because I bought a couple of forms of Reblochon.

This cheese is made the famous tartiflette, which is a delicious dish and very unique.

Another famous cheese with which I realize some delicious cakes originating from Aosta Valley is the beaufort, very seasoned and strong flavored.

Your hub gave me a crazy hunger!


Brandon Spaulding profile image

Brandon Spaulding 4 years ago from Yahoo, Contributor

I love cheeses of all kinds. Wisconsin is known for cheese as well. I love cheese curds. They squeak when you eat them. Voted up, interesting, and awesome.


Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

Oh, be still my soul! French cheeses are the foods I dream about. My hips are longing for these right this minute! Voted up and awesome. And shared.


steveamy profile image

steveamy 4 years ago from Florida

my favorite cheese from France is Crottin de Chavignol. Served with a bottle of chilled Sancerre -- a classic combo


melbel profile image

melbel 5 years ago from New Buffalo, Michigan Author

Mmmmm I know! I love different cheeses!


paul_gibsons profile image

paul_gibsons 6 years ago from Gibsons, BC, Canada

yup, just a few of the many french cheeses you can and we used to get in europe...unfortunately here we cant get anything like the same selection. Or the selection of french wines to go with them. I do miss it, but not enough to move back to europe...time for a holiday soon again I think; you got my taste buds going..


suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 6 years ago from Asheville, NC

Oh, I do love exotic cheese. Great Hub.

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