9 Awesome French Cheeses Everyone Should Know

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.

Alice Gao

Nothing says joie de vivre français like an oozing triple crème. The French enjoy a lot of cheese. And more importantly, they are deeply connected to and proud of their cheese. As well they should be! They have a rich and storied cheese history, a deep-rooted culture of cheese, and more than a thousand cheeses in their lexicon.

France takes its cheese so seriously, they have a whole system of Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC). This means "controlled designation of origin," and serves to protect the authenticity of cheese. For example, for a cheese to be awarded the AOC-protected name "Cantal," it must come from the Cantal mountains in Auvergne from the winter milk of Salers cows, made according to specific methodology, and aged a minimum of one month.

Only a small percentage of those cheeses get imported to the U.S., and most of them are made specifically for the American market. You guessed right: those cheeses tend to be less complex, factory-made, and tragically disappointing.

But don't despair—the French cheese lover in The States still has many glorious options. These are my favorite nine, although I have real love for other greats that didn't make this list: Epoisses! Alsatian munster! Abondance! Morbier! Bleu d'Auvergne! But hey, gotta leave something for next time.

Full disclosure: I work at Fairway market in NYC, where these gorgeous cheeses were shot.

See all the cheeses in the slideshow »

9 Awesome French Cheeses

Langres »
Fromage de Meaux »
Comte »
Le Châtelain Camembert »
Oussau-Iraty »
Roquefort »
Chèvre »
Pont l'Evêque »
Tomme de Savoie »

And More Cheese!

13 Cheeses Everyone Should Know »