Gallery: 9 Awesome French Cheeses Everyone Should Know

  • 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

    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.


    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, 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.

    Le Châtelain Camembert

    Le Châtelain Camembert

    Region of Origin: Normandy

    Type of milk: Cow

    Aged: About 30 days

    Notes: Le Châtelain is made like AOC Camembert, except that the milk is pasteurized, and hence Le Châtelain can be legally imported. Gently pasteurized so less truffly, fried egg-y, amazingly complex flavor is obliterated. Wildly mushroomy, earthy, and creamy. This is no grocery store Camembert; this is the real deal.

    Serve: With Chenin Blanc or a Normandy cider. Makes a great canapé with a dollop of date jam or onion confit.


    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.


    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.


    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.

    Pont l'Evêque

    Region of Origin: Normandy (the little town of Pont l'Evêque)

    Type of milk: Cow

    Aged: About 6 weeks

    Notes: Norman monks in the Middle Ages ended their meals with this milky, grassy washed rind cheese, and it's still a pitch-perfect way to culminate a great dinner. Cut open the cute, compact orange square and watch the ivory paste ooze fabulously. Eat the whole thing, rind and all. Its bark is bigger than its bite; it's got a strong smell, but a delicate, mild flavor. Sweet-tart, creamy, and crave-worthy.

    Serve: With Champagne, Pinot Noir, or Gamay. A pont l'evêque and pear sandwich makes a pretty awesome lunch.

    Tomme de Savoie

    Nika Novak / Shutterstock

    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.