Melanie has been interested in cultures, languages, and travel since her youth. She also runs a YouTube channel: The Curious Coder.
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 French 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.
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 kinds of cheese 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 kinds of cheese 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 are amazing eats with a sliced apple!
Époisses de Bourgogne
Soft, washed rind
Tomme de Savoie
Soft, washed rind
Époisses de Bourgogne
This pungent, strong-odored cheese made from cow’s milk is generally left unpasteurized. The cheese has a dark orange rind which is from the cheese being washed in brine and later with red wine, usually burgundy. It is washed with 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!
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.
Roquefort is a blue cheese made from sheep 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 various cheeses and wines that can only be called a particular 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.
Roquefort contains as much as 1280 mg of glutamate per 100 g of cheese which means it has the highest level of glutamate 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 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 particularly rich milk that was perfect for cheese making. Reblochon has a nutty-flavored with an herbal aroma and is best paired with white wine or fruity red wine.
© 2009 Melanie Shebel
FlourishAnyway from USA on April 29, 2013:
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.
Marco Piazzalunga from Presezzo, Italy on January 23, 2013:
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 from Yahoo, Contributor on February 21, 2012:
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 from Planet Earth on February 21, 2012:
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 from Florida on December 23, 2011:
my favorite cheese from France is Crottin de Chavignol. Served with a bottle of chilled Sancerre -- a classic combo
Melanie Shebel (author) from Midwest, USA on January 24, 2011:
Mmmmm I know! I love different cheeses!
paul_gibsons from Gibsons, BC, Canada on February 17, 2010:
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 from Asheville, NC on January 30, 2010:
Oh, I do love exotic cheese. Great Hub.