French Cheeses

French cheese are part of French life! They are definitely an accompaniment to a glass of local wine when travelling through France. Think of France and you immediately think of food, wine and cheese! – long before you start thinking about frog's legs and snails.

France produces over 300 different cheeses with an enormous variety of flavours, textures, sizes and shapes. Some cheeses are commercially produced, but a great many are made locally and are well worth seeking out. A trawl of the local markets will invariably produce someone selling cheese they made themselves, and, in some instances, only yesterday – you can't get fresher than that!

For a formal meal the cheese is served after the meat and salad but before the sweet or dessert; the idea is that the cheese cleanses the palate in readiness for what is to come. For an informal meal an assortment of French cheeses are arranged on a large wooden platter together with luscious black grapes, apples and pears. This is a fantastic spread and very few people would ever tire of this!

Of course, together with this wonderful cheeseboard, is served fresh crusty French bread and creamy French butter. Not forgetting of course a glass of one or two local wines!

Most French cheeses are for eating rather than cooking. The French will use cheeses such as Gruyère or Emmental and Italian parmesan for cooking. French cheeses need a little care and attention for storing. They are all best eaten when fresh.

Soft cheeses

Soft cheeses are wonderful and include cheeses such as Brie, Camembert, Carré de l'Est, Pont l'Eveque, Livarot and many more. They are dry and firm when first produced but gradually ripen and become soft and creamy. When over-ripe they can smell very strongly. Don't buy them if they are discoloured or shrunk, or if already strong smelling.

Wines to serve with soft cheeses or for any other cheeses are really a matter of personal taste. All French wines are good and you can choose your own favourite wines. As long as you enjoy your food – that is good for the body and good for the soul! However, a few tips if you are not sure for special occasions: it is best to choose sound red wines with a good bouquet. Gourmets reserve their finest vintage claret for a perfect Brie or Camembert!

Semi-hard cheeses

These cheeses would include Port-du-Salut, St-Paulin, Tomme au Raisin, Cantal, Comté , Reblochon and others. These cheeses are bought in small quantities when very fresh, usually cut from a large cheese or sometimes pre-packed in small portions.

Wines that are good with these cheeses are light red wines or dry fruity white or rosé wines.

Blue-veined cheeses

The most popular of these cheeses is the famous Roquefort which is made from ewes milk. Other cows’ milk cheeses include Bleu de Bresse. These can be bought by the slice from a big cheese or individually wrapped portions.

Wines to accompany blue-veined cheeses are usually a full bodied red Burgundy wine.

Cream cheese

These cream cheeses are truly wonderful - but they are between 40% and 75% fat, so it is a good idea to know this if you need to lower your fat intake – or, more to the point, not raise it! Cream cheeses should be eaten as fresh as possible. Cheeses here include Demi-sel, St Florentin, Petits Suisse, Fromage Monsieur, Fromage le Roi, and many more. The unsalted Petits Suisses and Pomel are often served as desserts with fresh raspberries, strawberries, sugar and fresh cream. Heaven!

Wines to serve with the cream cheeses are a medium sweet white or rosé wines.

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