Slideshow: 9 Awesome French Cheeses Everyone Should Know

Langres
Langres

Region of Origin: Champagne

Type of milk: Cow

Aged: About 6 weeks

Notes: Langres is my desert island cheese. It is dense, oozy, and creamy, perfect for poking at and scooping up with a crusty baguette. Stinky, but not hit-you-over-the-head stinky, Langres is a cheese that justifies France's cheese-genius cred. Washed with brine, funky, milky, and show-stopping.

Serve: With good bread and go at it! A Rhone red wine and prunes make perfect pairings.

Fromage de Meaux
Fromage de Meaux

Region of Origin: Ile-de-France (Brie)

Type of milk: Cow

Aged: About 6 weeks

Notes: Real Brie, from Brie. This is the closest we can get in the U.S. to the real deal; our laws dictate that the cheese must be pasteurized, which means a bit of the luscious complexity is lost. But still, Fromage de Meaux remains magnificent. Beefy, buttery, with notes of mushrooms, garlic, and almonds and a pretty golden paste.

Serve: With champagne, or a big red Boudreaux or Burgundy.

Comte
Comte

Region of Origin: Franche-Comté

Type of milk: Cow

Aged: 12 - 18 months

Notes: One of the world's greatest cheeses. Comte has been made from the unpasteurized milk of Montbéliarde cows (see photo!), high in the Jura Mountains, for centuries. They graze on abundant pastures, and in the summer the cheese takes on floral notes. Big, smooth, and righteous. Hints of hazelnuts, toffee, and ripe, succulent fruit. Hard, yet pliable.

Serve: Perfect for melting! A fondue classic, and a welcome addition to grilled cheese. Also great on a cheese plate, with a fruity red wine like Beaujolais.

Oussau-Iraty
Oussau-Iraty

Region of Origin: The Northern Basque Pyrenees

Type of milk: Sheep

Aged: About 90 days

Notes: This pressed, uncooked, raw sheep cheese has layers upon layers of lush flavor. It's one of two sheep's milk cheeses with AOC designation (the other is Roquefort), and you can really taste the sheepy funk. The flavor is mild yet hauntingly complex. Firm, smooth, sweet, and a little nutty.

Serve: Melts beautifully; grate over soup or pasta. Or enjoy alongside a glass or two of Sauvignon Blanc or Madiran.

Roquefort
Roquefort

Region of Origin: The area surrounding the tiny town of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon in Southern France

Type of milk: Sheep

Aged: 2 to 4 months

Notes: According to the legend of Roquefort, the cheese was born when a young boy saw a beautiful girl in the distance. He abandoned his lunch of bread and cheese in a cave, running to soak in her luster. When he returned a few months later Penicillium roqueforti (the famous Roquefort mold) had transformed his plain cheese into Roquefort. The first cheese to receive AOC status, Roquefort earns its nickname "The King of Blues." It's been around for at least a thousand years. It is rindless and fudgy, with green and blue veining and a punchy, spicy-sweet, and incredible flavor.

Serve: In a salad with walnuts and beets, or melted on a juicy steak, or paired with Sauternes after dinner.

Chèvre
Chèvre

Region of Origin: The Loire Valley and Poitou

Type of milk: Goat

Notes: Chèvre is simply French for goat, and a generic term for many goat's milk cheeses. Some of the classics: Bucheron, Crottin de Chavignol, Pouligny Saint-Pierre, Chabichou du Poitou, Valençay. Sometimes coated with a sprinkle of ash, originally charcoal, to keep the cheese from drying out. Chèvre starts out mild and creamy, and becomes drier, firmer, flakier, and more acidic with age.

Serve: In salads, omelets, and on pizza.

Tomme de Savoie
Tomme de Savoie

Region of Origin: From the valley of Savoie, in the French Alps

Type of milk: Cow

Aged: About 2 months

Notes: "Tomme" is a generic French term for a wheel of cheese, usually a smallish wheel. Tomme de Savoie is thus "cheese from Savoie," and it is an awesome cheese indeed. It's made from skimmed milk—after the cream has been used for butter, or richer cheeses—and the result is a musky and satisfying wonder. The cheese is semi-soft, with a dusty, tough rind. Tomme de Savoie looks and tastes totally rustic, earthy, and reminiscent of the caves in which it is aged.

Serve: With an Alsatian Riesling, or a Belgian Double. Serve with walnuts, or melt on a baked potato, or toss in a salad with arugula.

[Photograph: Nika Novak / Shutterstock]