What is the best cheese in France? This question is a pretty complicated one, as popular french cheese types are numerous and diverse. Exploring the world of popular cheeses in France can be a bit overwhelming – former French President Charles de Gaulle even famously joked that it is impossible to govern a country with 246 types of cheese (and today there are more than a thousand).
For more than 2,000 thousand years, French cheesemakers have accumulated experience and improved their skills. Even the ancient Romans knew French cheese, now called Conte. In addition to excellent taste, it was characterized by healing properties!
Best french cheese production technology includes a molding stage, which is interesting. The future cheese – curd mass, is laid out in special containers to give the ripening cheese a nice look. Because of the distorted sound of the word “formage”, the French began to call cheese “le Fromage”.
Even now, it is difficult to count the number of varieties of French cheese. When traveling to France, you can try to make your own description of the French cheeses you will be lucky enough to taste. We are sure that with every attempt, you will add hundreds of new varieties of the best French cheeses.
If you come across a French cheese labeled “Appellation d’Origine Controlee”, you should know that the centuries-old experience, traditions, and skills of cheese-makers are embodied in this brand.
Roquefort, brie, and camembert are classics of French cheese. It is easy to guess that there are no fewer recipes for making French cheese than already known varieties. In French villages, the secrets of making cheese are carefully kept, and no one strives to reveal these secrets.
Therefore, we only know about 50 varieties of French cheese that can be purchased all over the world. In addition, some cheeses were not given any names at all – these kinds of French cheeses are produced exclusively for their own needs. Cheese for the French is a way of life, not just food or a commodity to sell.
Where Famous French Cheese Is Made
French cheeses, known all over the world and being the pride of France, are produced by cheesemakers in historically established territories that have given sonorous names to many varieties of cheeses produced here. They usually correspond to the region or place in France where the cheese was produced. Different types of cheese in France
are considered traditional and, as a rule, they have a special label “Appellation d’Origine Controlee”(we have already mentioned it).
Traditional Shapes of Cheese in France
French cheeses can take on a wide variety of geometric shapes. The most common are: circle, disc, drum, rectangle, square, standing cylinder, lying cylinder, ingot, cone, heart, and triangle.
Where did such a variety of forms come from? The fact is that each type of cheese in France has its own individual history, life, and even character. The best camembert cheese and the best French brie always have a disc form. It is this shape that ensures the cheese ripens evenly.
French cheeses in the form of a triangle or rectangle also have long historical roots, since they were produced by those peasants who used containers of a similar shape during the molding stage. Over time, this became a tradition.
French cheeses made from goat milk are most often made in the shape of a cone. The flesh of goat cheese is much more tender and tapered, helping to maintain the integrity of the cheese. Large round or drum cheeses are usually hard varieties. This makes them easier to fold in the cellar.
French Cheese: Which One to Choose
In France, there is an unspoken agreement between cheesemakers, and all traditional shapes and recipes of cheese are necessarily protected by copyright. But this does not at all prevent French cheesemakers from creatively approaching the process of producing their own brand of cheese and offering unprecedented forms (or even ingredients) that very often change even the taste of cheese.
Every French region has some french cheese types to offer, that showcase their local terroir: the climate, animals, and history of the region. French cheese brands, as well as products themselves, are numerous. So, let’s now proceed to get acquainted with our french cheese list. So, if you want to choose a good French cheese, check it out.
Perhaps the most famous soft French cheese, named after the area of its origin in Normandy. Camembert has a white velvety moldy crust, a soft greasy consistency, a delicate taste, and a rather pungent aroma, which the French poet Fargue called “the smell of the feet of God.” Camembert cheese brands are really diverse.
Brie is a fancy French cheese that is often confused with Camembert, and it really is similar in appearance and texture, but significantly inferior in the expressiveness of the aroma and in fat content (only 25%). For this reason, brie is considered the more versatile soft cheese that has been known since the Middle Ages. It is one of the most popular smelly French cheese names.
This french hard cheese is called the “Gruyere of Conte” for its similarity to the Swiss variety of the same name. The classic Conte is made from unpasteurized cow’s milk and has a pleasant sweetish taste with a nutty flavor.
This is the oldest product produced in the French region of Auvergne, it is also called the first farm product. Has a hard moldy crust, semi-soft consistency, and pulp with a delicate taste of wild mushrooms or spices. Ideal for serving with Bordeaux wines.
Reblochon de Savoie is a french washed rind cheese that is characterized by an intense aroma. The French village of La Clusaz hosts a separate Reblochon festival, during which cheese is prepared and tested on-site.
Munster-Jerome is a soft cheese with a washed orange-red crust and a very pungent aroma. It began to be produced by Italian Benedictine monks in a monastery in the French department of the Vosges. Later, the village of Münster appeared on this site, and the cheese got its name.
Another very popular French cheese all over the world is soft with a blue mold. Traditional Roquefort is made from sheep’s milk and has a buttery texture and a salty taste.
Tom de Savoie
This is a strong french cheese with an elastic consistency with a white moldy crust and small holes. Produced in the regions of Savoy and Haute-Savoie. This is the only French-certified cheese that can have different fat content – from 10% to 25%.
Another hard cheese from Auvergne, which is considered one of the oldest varieties in France. Farmer cantal is made from raw milk, and for commercial purposes – from pasteurized milk. The cheese is distinguished by a bright pronounced taste and aroma, its crust is hard and thick.
Soft, tender cheese with an orange or brick-red crust, depending on ripeness. It began to be produced by the commune of Epuas in Burgundy and is said to have been Napoleon Bonaparte’s favorite cheese. It is eaten with a dessert spoon and served with Burgundy wines.
Morbier, like Conte, comes from the French region of Franche-Comte. It is a semi-soft product with a hard crust that has one “decorative” feature that sets it apart from many others. In the middle of the circle is a thin strip of crushed charcoal. Today it is just a tribute to tradition, and once a strip of soot was a necessary measure.
French peasants made Morbier, composing it from two pieces of fermented milk. The first piece was obtained after the evening milking of the cow, the second after the morning one. Thus, the first piece of cheese had to wait one night, and so that it did not deteriorate, it was smeared on top with a layer of soot, and the next day a second piece was placed on it.
A soft product with a dense white moldy crust, which has been produced since the 14th century. The cheese has a delicate, slightly sour taste and a nutty-mushroom aroma.
Mimolette is a recognizable bright orange product. Its production began by decree of Louis XIV, according to which it was necessary to create a French analog of the Dutch Edam. In order for it to have visible differences, a vegetable dye was added to it. The homeland of this product is the city of Lille in the north of France.
This product is made of goat milk in the shape of a pyramid without a sharp top, it has a delicate taste and aroma. The moldy crust of the cheese is dense and has a blue-gray tint due to the fact that it is sprinkled with wood ash. Recommended for pairing with white wines.
Coeur de Chevre
The name translated from French means “goat’s heart”, which clearly characterizes this product. It is made from raw goat’s milk and is heart-shaped. The product is soft, with a moldy crust, the color varies from delicate white for young and grayish for mature.
Délice de Bourgogne
“Delicacy from Burgundy” has been known in regional French cuisine since the 18th century. This delicate soft cream product has a firm light body covered with a velvety mold crust.
Soft French product with a pronounced milky-creamy taste. It is forbidden to add any spices and additives to it that would disturb the harmony of its taste and aroma.
It is a soft goat cheese with a moldy crust and sour pulp with a delicate nutty flavor. Produced in the Lo department in Occitania.
Another soft goat cheese is produced in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. It has several varieties, which differ in maturity and taste. Young cheese has a light flesh and crust, and as the degree of maturity of the Picodon increases, its flesh becomes denser, and the moldy crust becomes blue.
Soft goat cheese in the shape of a pyramid, for which it is often called the “Eiffel Tower”. The crust is moldy, bluish, the flesh has a slight hazelnut flavor.
Crottin de Chavignol
Soft product made from goat’s milk, which is usually served with fruits and white wines. The cheese comes from the French village of Chavignol, where it began to be produced back in the 16th century.
Delicate French Pelardon is considered the oldest goat cheese in Europe. In addition, thanks to the grazing of goats on natural pastures, the cheese is made from organic milk, which cannot but inspire the eco-conscious gourmet.
Soft cheese from Normandy, which was once called “the meat of the poor”, but today it is a real elite product. Livarot is made from cow’s milk, its pulp, depending on maturity, has a more or less rich yellow-orange hue. Livaro’s crust has a deep orange color thanks to the vegetable dye that is used to color the product during ripening.
Blue cheese from Auvergne, which is less salty than other blue products. Its texture is oily, and the cheese itself is more delicate in taste.
Semi-hard product made from cow’s milk from Saler cows. Saler is considered one of the oldest cheeses in France – its history goes back more than two millennia. It has a deep rich taste and aroma, golden pulp, dense, and at the same time soft texture.
Semi-hard product made from unpasteurized cow’s milk. It has a thick brown-gray crust, and the flesh has a sour taste with pronounced shades of aromatic herbs.
Soft cheese made from cow’s milk, produced in Normandy. The first mentions of this cheese are found in the historical annals of the 12th century. Has a washed moldy crust, a pungent aroma, and a sweet aftertaste. It goes well with cider and red wines.
It is a soft savoy product made from raw goat’s milk with a spicy nutty flavor. Has a dense moist pulp with holes, dense crust from yellow to orange, covered with a pronounced coating of white mold. Plenty of french cheese companies offer this product.
What to Try if I Don’t Like Smelly French Cheese?
If you are not into the strong aroma of blue cheeses and other smelly types of products, we recommend trying ones with a more delicate flavor. For example, Brie, Chevrotin, Saler, etc. The selection is rich, so you will easily find what your receptors will like.
How Many Types of Cheese Are Made in France?
Nowadays, the number of types of products cannot be called for sure. They say there may be more than a thousand varieties.
What Is the Best French Cheese?
It depends on your preferences which product you will like the most. When in France, be sure all products purchased here are of the highest quality. So, you can simply try as many as you want until you find the perfect one!