First there’s the gorgeous scenery and vibrant cities. Then there’s the history, the fashion and the culture. And then there’s the cheese. In a country considered the world’s epicentre of gastronomy, it will come as no surprise that it’s here that you will find some of the best cheeses on earth. 

Normandy is home to four important cheeses: Camembert de Normandie, one of the crown jewels of French gastronomy; Neufchâtel PDO, a cheese often heart-shaped with a bright white, downy rind that browns as it matures; Pont-l’Evêque PDO, a soft-ripened, washed-rind cheese with a pronounced farmyard aroma; and Livarot PDO, one of Normandy’s oldest cheeses. 

Beautiful and varied in landscape, Brittany offers wooded countryside, moors and river valleys shaped by the tides. Worth a try here is Saint-Paulin, defined by law as a semi-hard uncooked, pressed cheese made with cow’s milk and originally produced by the Trappist monks of Saint-Paulin. 

If you are travelling through the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, take a trip to Lyon, a UNESCO World Heritage Centre and France’s culinary capital. As well as its many restaurants, you can also discover the region’s cheeses which include Abondance PDO, an earthy hard cheese with notes of hazelnuts and fruits, and Cantal PDO which, depending on its maturity, can range from softly textured with a buttery taste to almost crumbly with intense flavours. Beaufort PDO has a fruity taste and creaminess that is highly prized and it is a very distinctive cheese without being strong. Tomme de Savoie PGI is the oldest of all Savoie cheeses with a straightforward taste and delicate, subtle flavours that vary according to the level of maturity and the seasons. The younger a Tomme is, the milder its taste, with a hint of tang; the older it gets, the more typical, powerful and rustic its taste becomes. 

Brillat-Savarin is a triple cream cow’s milk Shutterstock

For a region known for its wines, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté does not disappoint when it comes to decadent cheese. The triple cream cow’s milk Brillat-Savarin can be enjoyed young and fresh or when it’s matured when it displays the flavour and structural changes you’d expect from a fine wine. Soumaintrain PGI is also creamy when young, but becoming more pronounced and aromatic as it ages. Chaource is a deliciously fine cheese which melts in the mouth, its flavours of cream and fresh mushrooms are enhanced by a little salt. 

If you are going to try Comté PDO, one of France’s foremost PDO cheeses, here is the place to do so.  A lesser-known but important cheese from the region is Bleu de Gex PDO or Bleu de Septmoncel. One of the milder of the salty blue cheeses, its beige and light brown rind is created by regular brushing. It’s easy to identify from the engraving of Gex on the outer rind. 

Of course, in a country of 1,200 or so cheeses, this is just a whistle-stop tour. It just means you’ll have to keep coming back… 

Read More: A Complete Guide to French Cheeses

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