French Cheese - Cheese Guide

June 12, 2019 | By Dave Mattingly

Cheese has been produced in France for thousands of years. Many claim that French Cheese making truly developed during the Middle Ages when monasteries began producing cheese. Yet it wasn't until the 1860s when Louis Pasteur created the pasteurization process that the distribution of French Cheese greatly increased.

While France is best known for soft ripened cheeses such as Brie and Camembert, there are several hundred other varieties of French Cheese made throughout the country. The regions surrounding Paris and to its northwest specialize in soft ripened cheeses such as the famous Brie and Camembert, while areas to the east tend to produce harder cheeses like Emmental and Comte. The Basque region in the south of France is home to Ossau-Iraty, a delectable semi-soft sheep's milk tomme. No matter your taste, there is a Fromage for you! Many French Cheese types are protected under Appellation d'Origine Controlee (AOC), the highest level of protection by law. AOC law requires that in order to use the AOC insignia, an eligible French Cheese must be produced in a traditional manner in a determined geographic area of France from local milk. offers a full selection of French Cheese such as Brie - The French "King of Cheese", Camembert, Gruyere de Comte, Roquefort and many more.

Featured French Cheese Types:

Brie has been called France's "King of Cheese" - Le Roi des Fromages - since winning a cheese championship in 1814. Brie is a soft ripened, bloomy white rinded, creamy cow's milk cheese whose recipe dates back to the 8th century. The famous French Cheese is named for the French province of Brie. This creamy French Cheese was so beloved that during the French Revolution, it is rumored that Louis XVI's final wish was for a taste of Brie. While Brie has been awarded AOC (Appellation d'Origine Controlee) classification for the varieties Brie de Meux and Brie de Melun, these types of Brie are made only from raw milk and thus are not permitted for export to the US.

The interior of Brie is the color of light straw, while its edible rind is bloomy white thanks to a spray-on application of penicillium candidum. This treatment applied to the rind during aging protects the young cheese from harmful bacteria and mold. Brie has a creamy mild flavor, perfect for those who do not like strongly flavored cheeses. This typical French Cheese is usually served at room temperature and is the perfect complement to fruit, wine and crusty French bread.

Camembert, another famous soft ripened French Cheese, originated in Normandy, France. Although developed one hundred years earlier, it wasn't until the late 1800s that Camembert became well known. A round wooden box is often used to house and transport this fragile, soft cheese. Its unique round box enables Camembert to be shipped long distances, and as a result, Camembert has become very popular in other countries, particularly the US. Camembert de Normandie was AOC (Appellation d'Origine Controlee) certified in 1983 and later granted PDO (Designation of Protected Origin) status in 1992. Like Brie, authentic Camembert de Normandie AOC must be made from raw milk and therefore cannot be exported to the US.

Camembert draws many comparisons to Brie. While both of these French Cheeses are soft ripened and have bloomy white rinds, Camembert is formed into smaller rounds and displays a slightly stronger flavor. Camembert is a cow's milk French Cheese that is aged a bit less than Brie and is also best served at room temperature when its texture becomes runny. It is important to note that authentic Camembert de Normandie should display a "core" that is firmer than the creamier paste that is closer to the rind. This core does not typically develop in pasteurized versions of the cheese. Camembert pairs particularly well with bread, fruits or nuts.

Gruyere de Comte
Although Gruyere may be more famous on the Swiss side of the border, the French version of this Alpine cheese is not to be overlooked. Originating in the 12th century, Gruyere de Comte was AOC (Appellation d'Origine Controlee) certified in 1958 and is currently the most produced French Cheese with AOC protection. Gruyere de Comte is a cow's milk French Cheese that is pale ivory in color with holes dispersed throughout. It is semi-hard, aged for approximately one year in mountain caves. The flavor of Gruyere de Comte varies, depending on technique, location of production, and time of year that it was produced. Sweet and nutty, Comte is well known for its use as a fondue cheese, but this versatile French Cheese can be enjoyed in many other ways. Slice, shred or grate it for an excellent table cheese or as an ingredient in soufflé or gratin.

French Emmental
Many believe that true Emmental comes from Switzerland. Actually, Emmental is an Alpine cheese that is made equally well in the Swiss Alps, French Alps, Austrial Alps and German Alps. French Emmental is made in an area where grass and cows enjoy some of the world's freshest water, leading to an exceptionally clean tasting French Cheese. Emmental is formed in tremendous 180 pound wheels. These massive cheese wheels are turned weekly in their ripening chambers for at least two months, with noticeable sharpness developing after six months in the cave. French Emmental has a sweet, buttery character, with hints of fresh nuts. Of course, like any Emmental, this French Cheese is known for its abundance of round walnut-sized holes evenly distributed throughout its interior. A result of a complex, time-tested cheesemaking process, French Emmental is a worthy addition to any recipe or cheese plate that calls for "Swiss Cheese".

French Chevre
Chevre is the French word for "goat". In the USA, chevre is a term typically associated with soft, fresh, French Cheese made from the milk of goats. France is known for their many varieties of goat cheese such as Bucheron and Montrachet. The complexity in flavor and texture of French chevre is vast, ranging from mild and soft to sharp and hard. Soft chevre is usually shaped into logs, and may be flavored with herbs and spices and rolled in fruits or nuts, leaves or edible flowers. Chevre melts differently than cow's milk cheeses and harder versions of goat cheese are often baked to create a warm creamy spread. Chevre Chaud is the French description for warmed goat cheese. French Chevre pairs well with a crusty French baguette and Sauvignon Blanc wine.

Roquefort, Stilton and Gorgonzola are considered to be the world's most esteemed blue cheeses. While Stilton and Gorgonzola are made from pasteurized cow's milk, Roquefort is unique in that it is made from raw (unpasteurized), 100% sheep's milk. Roquefort's AOC (Appellation d'Origine Controlee) certification mandates that this famous French Cheese must only be produced in the Roquefort-sur-Soulzon region of France. Roquefort is naturally aged in the caves of this region for at least three months. It is a semi-soft, rindless French cheese that is tangy and crumbly with distinguishing green veins running through it. The milk used to make Roquefort is so cherished, that any remaining milk from its production is saved to make French Valbreso Feta cheese.

Fourme d'Ambert
Fourme d'Ambert was born in the Puy-de Dome mountain zone, the five Cantal districts and the eight communes of the Loire. But its historyBut its history goes back to the Gaul druids who according to legend, were keen enthusiasts of this blue cheese. Its unique taste derives from the fact that the cows are milked at altitudes ranging between 600 and 1,600 metres, resulting in a unique taste of the “terroir”, reflecting the specificity of the area. Matured for a month in cool, humid cellars, the cheese is pricked over to aerate the interior and to allow blue mould to develop. Fourme d’Ambert is the mildest blue cheese.

Bleu d'Auvergne
The recipe for this French Blue Cheese was perfected by Antoine Roussel in 1854. Roussel, a young pharmacist-in-training, left his native Auvergne to work in Rouen, and it was in Rouen where he learned about working with mold spores. He developed a secret method of introducing blue mold into his hometown cheese - a method that was embraced and then handed on from producer to producer. 150+ years later, this blue cow's milk cheese is considered "a must" for those who like strong cheeses.

Pliny the Elder, an ancient writer whose food observations are often cited still today, wrote about Cantal in the 1st century AD, making this French Cheese possibly the oldest cheese in the world. Its production style has a quirk shared by few other French Cheeses, in that its curd is pressed twice. Cantal is a large French Cheese, whose whole wheel weighs around 80 pounds. Much of today's production is made in smaller 20 pound wheels, but due to AOC rules, this smaller format Cantal must be called Cantalet. Cantal is similar to Cheddar in flavor and texture and it is often speculated that the English leveraged the Cantal recipe back in the day when they invented Cheddar.

This washed rind French Cheese has a black line of vegetable ash running through its belly that separates Morbier into two distinct halves. The line of ash is Morbier's most intriguing, distinctive feature. Turning back the clock two centuries, small farmers in its native Franche-Comté region used to make this cheese in a two-step process, mainly because they needed to milk their cows twice in order to produce enough curd to produce a full wheel. The morning's milk curds were added to the mould and covered with a fine protective layer of ash. In the evening, they added curds from the second milking, sandwiching the ash layer between the curds. Today the ash line is purely decorative, but it maintains the interesting history of this mild, lightly aromatic cheese..

Reblochon is a soft, raw cow's milk French Cheese that is aged in caves and cellars of the Haute Savoie region. It is said that during the Middle Ages, farmers paid their taxes with milk from their herd. In order to pay less, they would not fully milk their cows. Once the tax collectors left, the farmers would finish milking their cows and found that the milk from the second milking was much richer than the first. They used this milk to make Reblochon cheese. Reblochon is a washed rind French Cheese that is known for its pungent aroma. Reblochon received its French AOC (Appellation d'Origine Controlee) certification in 1958.

Raw-milk Reblochon cheese is no longer available in the US due to importation restrictions. Delice du Jura is a creamy, nutty pasteurized cow's milk French Cheese that is very similar to Reblochon and an excellent option for those looking for Reblochon in the US.

French Monastery Cheeses
Many claim that the tradition of French Cheese making actually began in the monasteries of France in the Middle Ages. Bread and cheese were basic staples of monks' diets, and a large part of the monks' time was spent tending to livestock and the surrounding land. It is believed that by the 16th century, monks had created over 50 varieties of French Cheese. Many of these cheeses, like Port Salut, Saint Nectaire and Saint Paulin, are still made today. Known for its orange rind, Port Salut is a mild, semi-soft natural cheese. St. Nectaire, made in the mountainous Auvergne region of France, is a mild, fruity and buttery cheese, and Saint Paulin is a creamy semi-soft cow's milk cheese made by France's Trappist monks.

This 1000+ year old sheep's milk cheese from the southwest part of France was used as a currency in the 14th century, as cheese was the first source of revenue for the shepherds native to this part of the country. The name of this often overlooked French Cheese echoes its origins in the valley of Ossau in Bearn and the Iraty massif in Basque country. Ossau-Iraty keeps for a long time and is traditionally served with black cherry jam. We love its satiny texture and smooth, sweet flavor.

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