French cooking France

How many different cheeses are there in France? Maybe quite a few... 1200 !

General de Gaulle is quoted as saying: "How can you govern a country where there are 258 varieties of cheese? He wasn't entirely wrong about the difficulty of governing France, but he was wrong about the number of cheeses. The Académie Française has named 400, some say 600, others 1200. What's certain is that the French love cheese, consuming over 26 kg per inhabitant per year. Let's discover the art of cheese with Monsieur de France.


A few figures before discovering the cheese families. There are at least 1,200 different cheeses, 45 of which are protected by Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (A.O.P ) and Indication Géographique Protégée (I.G.P). 5 are Label Rouge. France produces around 2 million tonnes of cheese a year and exports 500,000 tonnes, including 100,000 tonnes outside the European Union. France is one of the world's leading cheese-producing countries. Cheese is often named after the territory in which it is made, using a technique specific to that territory. 16% of sales are raw-milk cheeses, but raclette cheese takes the lion's share of the market. There are plenty of crèmiers in towns and cities, and on markets too. It has to be said that this is a real French passion, as the French consume an average of 26.3 kg of cheese per inhabitant per year.

french cheeses photo choisie par : dépositphotos.


The 8 cheese families



1 Fresh cheeses / fromages frais


Chavrou, Saint-Moret, Faisselle, Brousse de Provence... These are unripened cheeses. They are easily recognized by the fact that they have no rind. Some have added ingredients, such as herbes de provence (thyme, rosemary...). They should be eaten fairly quickly.

Faisselle, a fresh cheese. Photo chosen by depositphotos.

Faisselle, a fresh cheese. Photo chosen by depositphotos.



2 Soft and bloomy rind cheeses / Les fromages à pâte molle et croûte fleurie 


Camembert, brie, chaource, Brillat-Savarin. .. They take their name from the white rind that forms during the ripening process (quite costly) and is caused by a fungus in the penicillin family, "penicillium candidum". Camembert lovers like to feel the Camembert (on top of the packaging) to find out whether it is "chalky", i.e. whether the cream is a little chalky and a little solid, or "done" or "runny", i.e. with a cream that runs when the cheese is cut. Camembert, which is losing some of its splendor these days, has long been the national cheese, having been on the rations of soldiers in the First and Second World Wars. The story goes that it was invented by the Norman Marie Harel, on the advice of a priest from the Brie region, at the time of the French Revolution. Here's the story.

The famous camembert, runny in the case of the one in this illustration chosen by on Depositphotos.

The famous camembert, runny in the case of the one in this illustration chosen by on Depositphotos.



3 Soft, washed-rind cheeses / Les fromages à pâte molle et croûte lavée 


Munster, Maroille, epoisses, Pont l'évêque... They work in the same way as soft, bloomy-rind cheeses like Camembert, but the mushroom chosen is not the same and, above all, their rind is washed or brushed with salt water or even alcohol. They are sometimes "affinés", i.e. put in a cellar to mature. They are easily recognized as the most fragrant of French cheeses.

Munster cheese, produced in the Vosges mountains in Alsace. Photo chosen by depositphotos.

Munster cheese, produced in the Vosges mountains in Alsace. Photo chosen by depositphotos.



4 Pressed uncooked cheeses / Les fromages à pâte pressée non cuite 


Reblochon, Saint Nectaire, Cantal, Ossau Iraty in the Basque Country... It's the rind that gives them their distinctive flavor. The thicker the rind, the longer the cheese has been aged. In fact, the curdled milk (at the origin of the cheese) is pressed to extract the "whey". There are uncooked pressed cheeses made from cow's milk (Reblochon, Cheddar...) and sheep' s milk (Tomme de Brebis, Ossau-iraty...).

Reblochon cheese. Photo chosen by monsieurdefrance.Com: depositphotos.

Reblochon cheese. Photo chosen by monsieurdefrance.Com: depositphotos.



5 pre-cooked cheeses / les fromages à pâte préssée cuite : 


Comté, Abondance, Beaufort, Gruyère... These cheeses are made in the mountains,where the cows are milked inspring and summer. The milk is then transformed into these cheeses, which are stored in cellars over the winter to mature into large wheels. They take a long time to mature, and the longer they mature, the better they taste. Often slightly fruity, they are rich in calcium. Comté is made in Franche-Comté. Beaufort, Gruyère and Abondance are made in Savoie. The family of pressed cooked cheeses also includes Emmenthal and Parmesan in Italy.

Wheels of pressed cooked cheese. Often large and heavy, they are stored in cellars. Photo chosen by depositfphotos.

Wheels of pressed cooked cheese. Often large and heavy, they are stored in cellars. Photo chosen by depositfphotos.



6 Blue-veined cheeses / Les fromages à pâte persillée ou "bleus"


Roquefort, fourme d'ambert, bleu de gex... They're named after the molds (noble and very good!) that give them their blue color. They are said to be caused by a fungus sown in the cheese (penicillium glaucum roqueforti, for example). Set up in a rather humid but well-ventilated area, where the cheeses are pierced with a needle to circulate the air.

Roquefort is said to have an original and ... In love! According to legend, it originated with a young shepherd who, seeing a beautiful woman and falling in love, left his sheep to try and seduce her. It must have worked, because he didn't return until several days later, hungry, and having nothing to eat, he nevertheless tasted her curdled milk and found it very tasty. Love leads to everything, especially in France...

Roquefort cheese. Photo chosen by depositphotos.

Roquefort cheese. Photo chosen by depositphotos.



7 processed cheeses / les fromages fondus 


Cancoyotte (or cancoillotte), kiri, laughing cow... The best is cancoillotte, which is delicious served with baked potatoes or morteau sausage. Processed cheeses, as their name suggests, are made by melting cheeses, sometimes the same cheese, sometimes different cheeses.



8 goat cheeses / Les fromages de chèvres


Crottin de chavignol, rocamadour, brocciu de Corse... There are many goat's or sheep's cheeses. You'll find them in the families we've already discovered. The best is fresh cheese, sometimes ashy or perfumed. They're so good in spring and summer.

Goat's cheese. Photo selected by; freeprod/depositphotos :

Goat's cheese. Photo selected by; freeprod/depositphotos :



What do you serve cheese with?


These days, you're often offered a cheese-based aperitif-dinatoire, or one that mixes cheese and charcuterie with the other French staple: bread. In the traditional French meal, cheese is presented just before dessert. It is presented on a cheese platter (3, 5 or even 7 cheeses), which can be garnished with dried fruit (walnuts, etc.) and bunches of grapes. It's also a good idea to offer butter (note: salted butter in Brittany) and a good green salad dressed with a good vinaigrette (note that in France, you don't cut your salad, you fold it!).

At the table, in addition to water, of course, cheese is traditionally served with wine, usually red, although white wine is making inroads (camembert is a good fruity white wine), as is cider.

french wine. Photo choisie par : depositphotos.

Alcohol abuse is dangerous for your health, consume in moderation.



The most famous cheeses by region


Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes :

Abondance, Bleu d'auvergne, Bleu (de bresse, Langeac, de Gex, du Vercors...) Fourme d'Ambert, Laguiole, Tomme au foin, Reblochon, Saint Marcellin, Saint Nectaire.

Burgundy Franche-Comté :

Brillat Savarin, Cancoillotte, chaource, Chavignol, Epoisse, Tomme du Jura, Mont d'or.

Corsica :

Brocciu, brousse, Corsican Tomme de brebis and a whole host of cheeses to discover.

Grand Est :

Brie de Meaux, Epoisse, Munster.

Hauts de France :

Maroilles, Mimolette

Normandy :

Camembert, Livarot, Pont l'évêque, Neufchâtel, Saint Paulin.

New Aquitaine

Chabichou du Poitou, Rocamadour and all Basque cheeses, including Ossau-iraty.


Roquefort, Rocamadour.

Provence Alpes Côte d'Azur

Banon, Brousse, Tomme de Provence.


The funniest names

Le curé Nantais, l'Hercule, la Taupinette, la Pigouille, le 5 frères de bermonville, la Belle-mère, le pithiviers au foin, le menhir (in Brittany of course), la boulette de la pierre qui vire or le dent du chat.

Sorry for any mistranslations. We had a cheese and red wine aperitif yesterday, which ended very, very late. The translator is still in bed as we write... 

Jérôme Prod'homme

Jérôme Prod'homme

Jérôme is "monsieur de France" the author of this site.