Cheeses of France

My choice for You : 5 FRENCH’S CHEESES/

How many cheeses are there in France?

The figures around 400 seem to indicate types or families of cheeses. But if we look at the products themselves, the figure is well over 1000 specimens.

Only certainty: there are 46 AOP (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) cheeses. Of these, 29 are made with cow’s milk, 14 with goat’s milk and 3 with sheep’s milk.

 In any case, France remains the blessed land of cheese!

Ossau -Iraty

Ossau-iraty is produced in south-western France.

Its name reflects its geographical location, the Ossau Valley in Béarn and the Irati Forest in the Basque Country. It is of ancient origin, traditionally made by the shepherds in the region.

It is one of only two sheep’s milk cheeses granted AOC, status in France since 1980 s. (The other is Roquefort).

Production techniques are very much in the essence of old world methods whereby the sheep still graze mountain pastures. The milk must come from the breeds Basco-béarnaise, Red-face Manech, or Black-face Manech. This is an uncooked cheese made through pressing. When offered as a farm-produced cheese (known as fromage fermier, fromage de ferme or produit fermier) the AOC regulations stipulate that only raw, unpasteurized milk be used.

Saint Félicien

Saint-Félicien is a cow’s milk cheese produced in the Rhône-Alpes region of France.

 It is a close cousin of another dauphinois cheese, Saint-Marcellin, and bears a similar texture and taste, though it can be almost twice as large in diameter.

The name originates from the small town where the cheese was first produced and sold. It was originally made from goat’s milk, but since then it has become more common to produce it with cow’s milk. Its creamy interior is encased in a flower-style (fleurie) casing. Its average weight is 180 grams (6.3 oz).

The optimal period for flavor occurs between April and September after an aging of 4 to 6 weeks, but it is also excellent consumed between March and December.

 It is softer and creamier than Saint-Marcellin.

Le Comté

Comte AOP.jpg

Comté (or Gruyère de Comté) is a French cheese made from unpasteurized cow’s milk in the Franche-Comté region of eastern France , including Doubs , Jura, Haute-Saône, Territoire de Belfort. In fact one of the most beautiful French region , where I was born in the City of Besançon a long time ago.

Comté has the highest production of all French AOC cheeses, around 64,000 tonnes annually.

The cheese is made in flat circular discs, each between 40 cm and 70 cm in diameter, and around 10 cm in height. Each disc weighs up to 50 kg with an FDM around 45%. The rind is usually a dusty-brown colour, and the internal pâte is a pale creamy yellow. The texture is relatively hard and flexible, and the taste is strong and slightly sweet.

Fresh from the farm, milk is poured into large copper vats where it is gently warmed. Each cheese requires up to 600 litres of milk. Rennet is added, causing the milk to coagulate. The curds are then cut into tiny white grains that are the size of rice or wheat which are then stirred before being heated again for around 30 minutes. The contents are then placed into moulds and the whey is pressed out. After several hours the mould is opened and left to mature in cellars, first for a few weeks at the dairy, and then over several months elsewhere.

The manufacture of Comté has been controlled by AOC regulations since it became one of the first cheeses to receive AOC recognition in 1958.

The AOC regulations for Comté prescribe:

  • There must be no more than 1.3 cows per hectare of pasture.
  • Fertilization of pasture is limited, and cows may only be fed fresh, natural feed, with no silage.
  • The milk must be transported to the site of production immediately after milking.
  • Renneting must be carried out within a stipulated time after milking, according to the storage temperature of the milk.
  • The milk must be used raw. Only one heating of the milk may occur, and that must be during renneting. The milk may be heated up to 56C / 133F.
  • Salt may only be applied directly to the surface of the cheese.
  • A casein label containing the date of production must be attached to the side of the cheese, and maturing must continue for at least four months.
  • No grated cheese may be sold under the Comté name.

  175 producers and 188 affineurs (agers) are registered  in France.

Epoisses de Bourgogne.

Époisses de Bourgogne is a legally-demarcated cheese made in the village Époisses and its environs, in the département of Côte-d’Or, about halfway between Dijon and Auxerre, in the former duchy of Burgundy, France, from agricultural processes and resources traditionally found in that region.

Commonly referred to as Époisses, it is a pungent soft-paste cows-milk cheese.

Smear-ripened, ‘washed rind’ (washed in brine and marc de Bourgogne, the local pomace brandy), it is circular at around either 10 cm or 18 cm in diameter, with a distinctive soft red-orange color. It is made either from raw or pasteurized milk.

 It is sold in a circular wooden box, and in restaurants, is sometimes served with a spoon due to its extremely soft texture.

The cheese is often paired with Trappist beer or even Sauternes rather than a red wine.


Bleu des Causses.

Bleu des Causses is a French blue cheese made from raw milk of Montbeliarde and Aubrac breeds of cow.  (a close cousin to Roquefort)

 It is produced in the Languedoc region of southern France and was granted AOC in 1979.

Traditionally, the cheese was made from a mixture of sheep’s milk mixed either with cow’s or goat’s milk. But according to French cheese laws, the cheese came to be made exclusively from cow’s milk.

Bleu des Causses has a high fat content of 45% and is matured for at least seventy days. However, the cheese can also be matured for up to six months in Gorges du Tarn’s natural limestone caves to develop a full and fine flavour.