France is a land known for its astounding culinary diversity. Concerning cheeses, the options are similarly endless. But some are consumed more than others due to their fame and production. While there many variations, here are ten of the most popular ones:
Camembert: As renowned as the béret and the baguette, camembert is a soft cow’s milk cheese originally from Normandy. Aged less than Brie, it is excellent served at room temperature, with fruits or nuts, and paired with a red Bordeaux or a Beaujolais.
Brie: A soft cheese made of raw cow’s milk, brie exists in many different forms (Brie de Meaux AOC; Brie de Melun AOC, etc.). It can be paired with many wines, including Champagne and cider. It is also used in regional culinary specialties (galettes briardes; bouchées à la reine au brie)
Chèvre: a generic denomination for goat cheese which comes in many different varieties. One of the most famous is the Crottin de Chavignol, a hard cheese made with raw milk best paired with a Loire white wine such as Pouilly Fumé or a Sancerre, where the cheese actually comes from.
Bleu: Roquefort (raw sheep’s milk) and Bleu d’Auvergne (pasteurized cow’s milk) are two important French blue cheeses. Their common caracteristic is the added cultures of the mold Penicillium, giving a spotted or veined throughout with a blue, blue-gray or blue-green mold. Typically aged in a cave to control temperature, it has a distinct smell. Sweet wine such as Muscat, Port or Sauternes go well with blue cheeses.
Boursin: A commercial cheese invented in 1963, Boursin is a popular soft creamy cow’s milk cheese available in a variety of flavors, especially garlic & herbs. Boursin‘s famed slogan is: “Du pain, du vin, du Boursin” (“Some bread, some wine, some Boursin”). Simple dry white wines or fruity red wines are ideal with Boursin.
Reblochon: Born in the Alp mountains of Haute Savoie, Reblochon has a creamy texture, with a nutty after taste and a strong herbal aroma. the cheese is aged in cellars or caves in the mountains; it is turned every two days and washed with whey to speed the aging process. Reblochon is also melted on baked potatoes, and used with tartiflette. A Savoie white wine, or a fruity red wine such as Beaujolais.
Munster: Made of cow’s in the East of France, Munster cheese has a strong aroma, often eaten with baked potatoes and finely chopped onions. t goes well with beer, or wines like Alsace’s Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir, but also full bodied red wines such as Côte-Rotie or Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
Pont l’Evèque: This cow’s milk cheese from Calvados in Normandy is one of France’s oldest. Its pâte is soft, creamy pale yellow in colour with a smooth, fine texture and a pungent aroma and full-bodied flavor. It is paired with Pinot Noir, Pomerol or Saint-Emilion wines.
Epoisses: Crafted in Burgundy, Epoisses is one of last cheeses in France made with unpasteurized coagulated milk. It is first washed with salty water, then kept in a humid cellar for a month, washed again with a mix of rainwater and Marc de Bourgogne’s spirit. Epoisses is best combined with a raisin bread, and served with a red Burgundy wine, or a Sauternes.
Tommes: A generic term meaning a ‘wheel of cheese’, “Tomme” is followed by the name of the village or the region where it is made, as in Tomme de Savoie, which is made with skim milk, from cows grazing mountain grasses. With a gray-brown rind, this cheese has a firm pate, with a nutty, sometimes grassy flavor. It works well paired with sausages, fruits, or bread, and a medium-bodied red wine from the Côtes du Rhône, Alsace Riesling, or a Savoie white wine.