Cheese in France To know more about cheese : Sign up for the next Wine and Cheese Tasting in Paris with Harriet Welty
 Facts and figures about cheese    Cheese etiquette
  • France has hundreds of different cheeses (everybody knows the word, attributed to Charles de Gaulle (or to Churchill?) : "How can you govern a country which has 365 different sorts of cheese ") : such a variety does not exist in any other cheese country

  • The categories of cheese are (according to the excellent book by Randolph Hodgson French Cheeses, Doring Kindersley,1996) :

    • Fresh, rindless, no affinage : ex. fromage frais
    • Uncooked, unpressed, soft with white mould : ex. Camembert
    • Uncooked, unpressed, soft with washed rind : ex. Munster
    • Uncooked, unpressed, soft, natureal mould sometimes covered with ashes : ex. chêvre
    • Uncooked, unpressed, soft, with veins of blue mould : ex. bleu
    • Uncooked, unpressed, semi-hard with natural mould : ex. Saint-Nectaire
    • Uncooked, unpressed, semi-hard, with washed and waxed rind : ex. Port-du-Salut
    • Cooked, pressed, hard : ex. Beaufort
    • Started with whey : ex. Brocciu
    • Product based on cheese : ex. fromage fort
  • About the very odorous "époisse", French poet Paul Valéry said "it is the smell of the feet of God"!

  • The Raw-Milk-War : the best cheeses are made with raw milk. It gives more taste because the (good) germs are alive and well. Most foreign regulations limit or forbid it, in the name of hygiene. France has to fight against the European administration which, under the pressure of countries which do not have any good cheese want to ban raw milk cheese from French stomachs. This war is now almost a victory for France. France also fights against US and Canadian regulations to be able to export its most massive destruction cheeses (M.D.C.) but this war is far from being won yet. See also the Wood-Shaving-War, the Rosé War and the Chocolate War.

  • Each region of France has its own cheeses, with some specificities : Auvergne (Center) has the largest variety and some of the best, Corsica has some of the strongest, Flanders (North) some of the stinkiest, etc

  • Some of the most "spectacular" cheeses are (but this is a matter of personal taste) :

    • Mont-d'Or : almost liquid, for dinner at Christmas or New Year Eve

    • Puant-de Lille : the worst smell and a very delicate taste

    • Saint-Nectaire : many people consider it the King of Cheeses

    • More to come....

  • The French consumption is very high : 24,6 kilos/year (source : FAO-2002) compared to 15,2 for USA and 10 for UK. See detailed comparative figures.

 

  M.Priet, cheese shop owner Rue des Pyrénées, ParisI
If you have (French) guests, always offer cheese after the main course and before dessert, with a minimum choice (two or three, but a real " plateau de fromages " has always more than that) ; it is a tradition to circulate the plate only once (no second helping )

  • A cheese plate is not a meal : it comes at the end of "real" meal ; do not invite French people and offer them only cheese !

  • Depending on its shape, each cheese must be cut according to specific rules : for instance, do not cut only the blue part of blue cheese or cut round cheeses from tre center !

  • Don't be prejudiced : very smelly cheeses do not necessarily taste strong, try blue cheeses and do not be afraid of their taste, etc...

  • Try to avoid keeping cheese in the refrigerator : it kills the taste

  • Depending on its taste and its category, a cheese matches better with certain wines than with others : it is not rigid but there are rules

    • it is not necessarily red wine that matches the best
    • try to associate wine and cheese from the same region
    • sweet white wines (Sauternes, Loupiac,..) go very well with blue cheeses (Roquefort, Bleu d'Auvergne,...)
    • pair dry white wine with goat cheeses and sweet white wine with very strong cheeses
    • with camembert, you can try cider
  • More about wine

According to our "statistics", in our Wine & Cheese Tastings, the American preferences, in term of French cheeses, are :

  • most appreciated cheeses...   least appreciated cheeses...
    tasting relatively familiar (comté, mimolette,..), already known (camembert, brie,..)   too strong (Roquefort, some goat cheeses like Corsican,...), very smelly (Epoisses, Vieux Lille,...)

More about cheese :

For more :

  For most French people, the ban of some French cheeses is hard to explain... 
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Harriet Welty Rochefort writes articles and books about France and the French. Order her books :

  • "Joie de Vivre", Secrets of Wining, Dining and Romancing like the French, St.Martin's Press, New York, 2012
  • "French Toast, An American in Paris Celebrates The Maddening Mysteries of the French", St.Martin's Press, New York, 1999
  • "French Fried, The Culinary Capers of An American in Paris", St.Martin's Press, New York, 2001

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