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Everything you always wanted to know About Roquefort cheese

Updated on March 28, 2015

About 5 years ago I would have never eaten a piece of Roquefort. I found that even the smell of such a strong cheese was pungent and overwhelming. Little did I know that only a few years later this blue cheese would become one of my favourite cheeses and that I wouldn’t mind travelling for hours to get to the famous Roquefort region just to buy a piece of Roquefort straight from the caves.

Considered a European luxury product in the United States, in France a piece of Roquefort along with a freshly baked bread is staple food for farmers!

Roquefort Cheese

How Does It Look And How Does It Taste?

Roquefort is a white crumbly but moist cheese with distinctive veins of emerald green mould. It has a very characteristic aroma.

If you close your eyes and put a piece of Roquefort in your mouth, the first impression would be salty and creamy until your palate registers the green veins of mould which provide a sharp tang.

A typical wheel of Roquefort weighs between 2.5 and 3 kilograms, and is about 10 cm thick. Each kilogram of finished cheese requires about 4.5 litres of milk. This cheese has no rind.

What are those green veins in the cheese?

Some people are put off by the green veins and the strong smell of Roquefort cheese. I still remember the first time my grandmother visited me in France she was appalled by my “stinky” cheese selection. One day when I was out I came back to find that she had “saved” the edible part in my cheeses carefully taking out all the offensive green mould in them! She wouldn’t hear any explanation, for her mould meant “it’s gone bad”

But, does the green mould really mean that the cheese has gone bad? Strictly speaking, I suppose that the answer is yes. But in practice it is the mould that gives the Roquefort its distinctive character. The Roquefort mould, Penicillium Roqueforti, is found on the soil of the local caves. Traditionally it was extracted from bread that was left in the caves to mould for about six to eight weeks. Nowadays, less traditional methods of producing Roquefort involve producing the Penicillium Roqueforti in laboratories.

History and Legend...

According to some data, Roquefort cheese was first recorded in written records during the X1 century. 

France is always part of the romantic imaginary, and Roquefort cheese is no exception to this influence.  The legend about the creation of this cheese starts with a shepherd who saw such a beautiful lady when he was looking after his sheep, that he fell head over heels in love with her.  He was so in love with her, that he left his sheep alone and forgot his sheep’s cheese sandwich in one of the caves.  Some weeks later when he came back from his romantic adventures. He found out that the Penicilium Roqueforti had transformed his lunch into the celebrated Roquefort cheese!

The Legend of Roquefort SOCIETE® started in 1863 and Continues until Today

Buy authentic French Roquefort on line

Roquefort Producers

As of 2009, there were seven Roquefort producers. My favourite one is the Roquefort Papillon although the largest manufacturer is Roquefort Société made by the Société des Caves de Roquefort and holding around 60% of the total production.

If you ever happen to be in the Roquefort area, don’t forget to set some time aside to visit the Roquefort Societé which opens its facilities to tourists.

How does the production of Roquefort cheese affect the Roquefort area?

It is said that the production of Roquefort involves around 4,500 people who herd special ewes on 2,100 farms producing milk.

Otherwise an almost sterile area, the Roquefort region owes its richness to the production of cheese.

Roquefort in numbers

  • The 2008 total production of Roquefort was reported as about 19,000 tons.
  • A small proportion, 450 tons out of 3,700 in total exports, goes to USA tables. This small amount might be explained by a 300% tax on European luxury goods started in 2009.
  • The largest foreign consumer of Roquefort is Spain.


The Laucane Sheep

What gives Roquefort its AOC?

There are around 40 different cheeses in France that hold an AOC. The protected designation of origin that Roquefort holds needs to be strictly observed for a cheese to be called Roquefort. Among the main AOC requirements for a blue cheese to be considered Roquefort, are:

  1. The milk used to manufacture the cheese must be delivered at least 20 days after lambing has taken place.
  2. The sheep used must be of the Laucane race created in 1942 mixing several breads.
  3. The sheep must be on pasture, it is forbidden to keep the sheep permanently in stables.
  4. At least 3/4 of any grain or fodder fed to the ewes must come from the Roquefort area.
  5. The milk used to prepare the cheese must be whole, raw, and unfiltered.
  6. The Penicillium roqueforti used in the production must be produced in France from the natural caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon.
  7. The salting process must be done using dry salt.
  8. The whole process of maturation (at least 90 days) must take place in the Combalou caves, an area of 2km by 300m, in Roquefort sur Soulzon.
  9. Cutting, packaging and refrigeration of the cheese must take place in the commune of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon.

When is the best time to have a Roquefort?

Although good all year long, the best period for tasting Roquefort is from April to October.

Once at home you must keep your cheese in its original package or in aluminium foil in the lower part of your fridge or your cave/cellar.

Before eating your cheese it is recommended to take it out of the fridge or cave at least 3à minutes before degustation.

Cheese and Wine

If you ask a French person what is the best wine to bring out the best of your Roquefort, you can almost bet that each of them will give you a different answer and a long explanation for their choice. Personally, I used to have a Medoc with my cheese, mainly because the wines from the Medoc area are my favourite ones. However, recently at a friends party I discovered a new “marriage of flavours” Roquefort and Sauternes. This white wine is at the moment my must-have wine for tasting a piece of Roquefort on a summery afternoon. I recommend you try it.

Creating a cheese platter :

Personally, when creating an after dinner cheese platter I consider at least 3 types of cheese : a soft cheese like brie or camembert, a blue cheese (you guessed right : Roquefort) and a Hard cheese like cantal, comte or beaufort.

Blue cheese and French local folklore:

Before the discovery of Penicillin, shepherds use to apply cheese to open wounds to avoid gangrene. It looks like they were on the right track!

A Some curious fact:

The president of the region Midi-Pyrénées, Martin Malvy, sent some Roquefort cheese to American president Barack Obama for his inauguration as a president.

© 2010 Wendy Iturrizaga


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    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 5 years ago from France

      Roma, the Roaquefort is a cheese very rich in sodium, however, the younger it is, the softest it will be to the taste.

    • Roman Golubev profile image

      Roman Golubev 5 years ago from Adelaide, South Australia

      What I don't get is why roquefort is sooo salty. I love blue cheeses but I found most of blue cheeses sold in Australia unhealthily salty, I mean more than 1,400 mg of salt per 100g! One exception I could find is Danish Castello Blue, a very nice cheese.

    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 6 years ago from France

      John: I know exactly what you mean -love handles to prove it :-( Cheese needs bread and bread and cheese HAVE TO be washed down with a good wine...

      Roquefort is delicious but the bad news are that a 40gr portion (I can never stop at one portion only) have 148 calories from which 13gr are fat!

    • profile image

      John G 6 years ago

      Can you please tell me what calories does the cheese have? and if its good for you or not! To be honest i cant stop eating roquefort and the problem is cheese needs bread and cheese and bread needs wine there goes my diet....

    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 6 years ago from France

      Vinaya: one of my favourite past times :-) pairing wines and cheese is an art on its own. Choosing the right wine can make all the difference to the way you appreciate a piece of cheese.

      Curiad: Thanks for the vote!

      Alocsin: I find interesting all these guidelines that make a product and AOC I think it is an excellent idea to preserve the "savoir faire" of local products.

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Love roquefort so I love this hub. I especially appreciated the nine guidelines that gives the cheese its AOC. Voting this Up and Interesting.

    • Curiad profile image

      Mark G Weller 6 years ago from Lake Charles, LA.

      I absolutely love Roquefort cheese and this hub told me many things I never knew, thank you for this well written and informative hub!

      Voted Up!

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 6 years ago from Nepal

      The first time I ate Roquefort I thought this is terrible. When I began eating more often I liked the taste.

      I love mellowing out with cheese and wine.

    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 6 years ago from France

      Sunshine625: Roquefort cheese was out of my own limits for a long time until I decided to take the plunge and go for it... I never came back, now it is one of my favourite cheeses.

    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 6 years ago from France

      Memme: Some signs that your Roquefort is going bad are:

      - It's green veins start to dissapear

      - It's start to become white

      - when it becomes sticky

      - when it smells bad (you know roquefort smells bad, but BAD ROQUEFORT smells worst) always follow your nose.

      - when it developes a whitish layer

      - when there is smelly water soaking your cheese.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 6 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Amazing shout-out to this cheese, but it lost me with the green coloring. I'm a fan of cheese, but even I have my limits. Fabulous presentation!

    • profile image

      Memme 7 years ago

      Q: How do you know if an unopened package has turned bad, and how unhealthy is it then? It has not yet reached its expiry date.

      We just l-o-v-e Roquefort. We usually keep a few, in their original SEALED packaging intact, in our fridge so that we always have it on hand.

      I purchased 3 about a month ago); after we had polished off pkge 1 & 2, we opened up #3, and are suspicious of it having turned 'bad'. it is not the same clear vibrant color, and when we cut into it, and clean off the 'outer portions', it is a 'cleaner' color; but it does not have that 'sharpness' in taste.

    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 7 years ago from France

      yvens: more Roquefort recipes perhaps?

    • yvens profile image

      yvens 7 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      Thanks, you've obviously put a lot of time and effort here; I have been consuming Roquefort for as long as I can remember (thanks to my father)and using it in my restaurants for the past 25 years, love it, got to have it.

      I have also gained more insight into Roquefort thanks to you.

      What's next?

    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 7 years ago from France

      Singular Investor: You can expect to pay €20 for a kilo.

      But prices vary, my favourite one, the Roquefort Papillon costs around €30 per kilo. After that it really depends where you buy it. The same piece of Roquefort might be double of triple the price in a fancy shop like Fauchon in Paris.

    • Singular Investor profile image

      Singular Investor 7 years ago from Oxford

      Very well written hub Princessa. How much does Roquefort cost in France ? Here (UK) it is really expensive (but then so is everything else).

    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 7 years ago from France

      DeBorrah: It was a pleasure to write about cheese, I can have cheese every single day without ever getting bored of it!

      drbj: I think that most foods are good when eaten in moderation. Thanks for taking the time to stop here and have a read :)

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 7 years ago from south Florida

      Well I guess Roquefort cheese must be good for you - it's like eating a penicillin antibiotic.

      Good research, Princessa, presented in an easy-to-understand manner. Thank you.

    • DeBorrah K. Ogans profile image

      DeBorrah K Ogans 7 years ago

      Princessa, Wonderful informative hub! Interesting read! Thank You for sharing, Peace & Blessings!

    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 7 years ago from France

      sagebrush_mama: Now you know. There are many blue cheeses similar in taste to the Roquefort, but like Champagne that only can come from the French region of Champagne; Roquefort must come from the Roquefort region to be called Roquefort.

    • sagebrush_mama profile image

      sagebrush_mama 7 years ago from The Shadow of Death Valley...Snow Covered Mountain Views Abound!

      Wow...lots of great information. My husband loves Roquefort salad dressings, I always thought it was equivalent to blue cheese. This was a very interesting read!