Beginner’s Guide to French Cheeses

Written by on November 29, 2017 in Gastronomy

Cheese stall at a French street market with hundreds of different cheeses

There are currently between 350 and 450 distinct types of French cheese in eight categories, each containing many varieties, so the total is probably closer to 1,000.

In 1962 there were fewer when President Charles de Gaulle famously said, “Comment voulez-vous gouverner un pays qui a deux cent quarante-six variétés de fromage?”(“How can you govern a country which has two hundred and forty-six varieties of cheese?”)

56 cheeses are classified, protected, and regulated under French law. The majority are classified as Appellation d’origine contrôlée(AOC), the highest level of protection.

Production is classified under 4 categories, and AOC rules dictate which category(ies) each protected cheese may be designated:

  • Fermier: farmhouse cheese, produced on the farm where the milk is produced.
  • Artisanal: producer making cheese in relatively small quantities using milk from own farm, but may also purchase milk from local farms.
  • Coopérative: dairy with local milk producers joining together to produce cheese.
  • Industriel: factory-made cheese from milk sourced locally or regionally, or possibly, all over France.
  • Turophile: a cheese fancier
  • Someone who passionately enjoys wine and cheese might be described as an oenophile turophile

More on cheese:

The legendary Reblochon cheese makers in Haute-Savoie
How to make tartiflette, a cheesy feast to fall head over heels for
Mont d’or the golden cheese you eat with a spoon!
The goat lady who makes cheese with a secret ingredient – passion…

Read Michael’s tale of lost cheese love in our free online Magazine, The Good Life France Autumn 2017 issue

Michael Cranmer is an award-winning freelance travel writer and photographer. He spends most of the winter up mountains writing about, his primary passion – skiing – but also manages to sample less strenuous outings.

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