Le Bouchon d’Armance
A small cylindrical cheese from l’Aude in Champagne-Ardennes made from raw cow’s milk. Bloomy rind. Matured for at least two weeks. The cheese is made in a Chaorce style, but the cylindrical form reminds you of a Charollais. Texture is firm and compact, but melts in your mouth. Taste is slightly sharp.
To drink: Champagne with body.
This is a triple cream, soft, bloomy rind cow’s milk cheese which, by and large, can be made wherever in France, but usually hails from the Brie-area, Normandy and towards Burgundy. By far, most Brillat-Savarin are made from pasteurised milk, but it not all that uncommon with varieties from raw milk as well. In the case of the cheese made from raw milk, it is usually artisanal or farmstead. A very rich cheese and is often referred to as the “fois gras” of the cheese world.
To drink: A rich Champagne for a rich cheese. If you live on a shoestring, try Cremant de Bourgogne, they pair very well.
Brie is a common name for a cow’s milk cheese with a bloomy rind from the Ile-de-France, i e, the region around Paris. Pale straw colored paste and thin edible rind with some white mold. Soft and creamy texture with a rich and harmonious flavor. Can often give flavor associations towards raw mushrooms. A genuine Brie is made from raw milk. An old cheese known from written sources as far back as 774 AD. There is a lot of cheese called Brie, but only a minority of them are made in the “right” area. Below I have mentioned a few worth tasting, all made from raw milk. The are all real Brie, but only two have the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin); Brie de Meaux and Brie de Melun.
Brie de Meaux
The most famous of the Brie cheeses, but also the most widely spread and commercialized with an annual production of about 6 000 tons. Originates from the town of Meaux, but can be made within quite a wide area including Seine-et-Marne in addition to parts of Yonne, Aube, Marne, Meuse and Haute-Marne. Brie de Meaux has a short period of acidification before rennet is added. The cheese is grande with a diameter of 36 to 37 centimetres, but with a modest hight of about 3 til 3,5 centimetres. A complete wheel wheights about 2,5 to 3+ kilos. The curd is hardly cut and drains naturally. Dry salted and then matured for four to eight weeks. PDO (AOP) protected, which it has been since 2009, and the local French geographical protection of origin AOC since 1980.
To drink: A generous cheese when it comes to pairing. East side Bordeaux, i.e. Merlot based wines. Also light and fruity reds like Beaujolais. Syhras, but also red Burgundies if you have the money. If you prefer whites try a semi dry Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling, not to mention Champagne of any kind. After all, it’s the neighbour.
Brie de Melun
Brie de Melun is the only other Brie with protection of origin (AOP/PDO) which it received together with Brie de Meaux. Is made in the town of Melun, and the area to the east and north east of the town, including Meaux. Brie de Melun has a long acidification period; 18 hours before rennet is added and the milk coagulates. Noticeable but balanced taste. With its 27 to 28 centimetres in diameter it is a bit smaller than Brie de Meaux. Weighs in at about 1,5 to 1,8 kilos. Brie de Melun is matured for four to twelve weeks. The cheese comes with a brown spotted bloomy rind. The more it is matured the more brown spots.
To drink: Red or white from Burgundy, or a mature Champagne. You can also follow the recommendation for Brie de Meaux.
Brie de Nangis
A real Brie from the town of Nangis south-east of Paris. Originally it was made at many small artisan dairies and farmstead dairies and mainly sold locally. As the years went by it was ousted by Brie de Melun and disappeared from the market altogether. Now back in its original style, but not made in Nangis. More powerful than both Brie de Meaux and Brie de Melun. Smell of champignon and forest floor, but also milk. Taste is slightly barnyardy, but it is not dominant. A good cheese, but it does not go down unnoticed.
To drink: You’ve got quite an array of red wine to choose from. Burgundy and Bordeaux, as well as northern Rhône (St Joseph) or Vacqueyras further south. The wines should have mature tannin and well integrated oak.
Brie le Fougerus
Easily recognizable because of the fern leaf that decorates the top. Artisanal cheese that strted out as a farmstead cheese. Artisanal from 1990 or thereabout. A bit higher than other Bries but smaller circumference with a diameter of only 16 centimeters. Matured for four weeks. Weights only 650 grams so it is possible to buy a whole wheel.
to drink: You can choose widely among reds from Burgundy, Bordeaux and Rhône, but stay with the commune wines.
It’s all in the name; a farmstead cheese this. Powerful with a barnyard taste, so this is not the Brie to start out with. Never seen it outside France. Very wide wheels but rather slim with its two centimeters’ height.
To drink: A red for this one. Mature Bordeaux, Burgundy or Hermitage.
Brie de Coulommiers
Widely regarded as the mother of all Brie. Artisanal. Best just before it is fully ripe while it still has some of the firm white core. A certain sweetness and smell of champinon and forest floor.
To drink: East side Bordeaux, i.e. Merlot based wines. Also light and fruity reds like Beaujolais, Syhras, red Burgundies if you have the money. If you prefer whites try a semi dry Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling, not to mention Champagne of any kind. After all, it’s the nabour.
Only for the very interested. This is a Brie that has been natured for a full year. Brown colour and quite firm texture. Pungent. Not a cheese for normal consumtion. The locals in love with this variety dips it in café au lait for breakfast.
To drink: Café au lait.
Brie de Favières
A local brie named after the “commune” it comes from. Located in the original core area for the making of brie just east of Paris in the middle between Meaux og Melun. farmstead cheese from the farm Ferme des 30 Arpents. Started making it in 2007 because they found the Brie de Meaux too big to handle, so the use Brie de Melun moulds. A complete wheel weighs 1.5 kilos. Creamy texture that easily gets runny. At its best with a firm core. Flavour is rich and balanced turning more rustic with age. Matured for two months. Probably hard to get outside France.
Brie de Montereau
A local brie from the area around the town of Montereau. Size similar to Coulommiers, but the flavour is more aligned with Brie de Melun. Comes in wheels of 1.1 kilos and is matured between four and eight weeks. A cheese with a character, so perhaps not the cheese to start out with if you are new to brie.
Brie de Provins
A hard to find cheese, perhaps even in France. A cheese made by artisans and matured four to five weeks. The French prefer their Brie rather young, while this is best when it is ripe. A giant this with its diameter of 27 centimeters and four centimeter height.
To drink: Bordeaux, Burgundy or Côte du Rhône.
Basically, a cow’s milk cheese from Normandy, but since they originally forgot to protect the name, a Camembert may come from anywhere. Today the name Camembert represents more a style than a cheese from a given area. As far as I know there is only one farmstead producer in Normandy who make Camembert. A Camembert coming from Normandy matures for about four weeks. Covered with white edible mold with brown spots. Do not be distracted by it, does not in any way indicate that the cheese is too old, it’s the way it should be. Creamy and buttery texture, yellowish paste yields to gentle pressure. Pronounced mushroom flavor. AOP Camembert, since 1983, will otherwise be of unpasteurized milk and called Camembert de Normandie.
To drink: On the white side; Champagne. I think this is a typical red wine cheese, though. Beaujolais, primarily one of the cru sites. But also a red Bordeaux or Châteauneuf-du-Pape on the slightly heavier side. If you would like to be very alternative do try dry sparkling cider or Calvados. White other than champagne; Burgundy.
Cow’s milk cheese from Champagne-Ardenne. The geographical protection AOP since 1970. According to the AOP rules Chaource can be both unpasteurized and pasteurized. Created as a small mini wheel matured for two to four weeks. Cheese with white flowered crust and pale yellow paste when it’s young, more creamy as it matures. Mature cheese has a nice nutty and salty taste. A little like Camembert, but creamier. A very traditional cheese which apparently originated back in the 1400s.
To drink: No problem to follow the golden rule of drinking local. Champagne. If you cannot stand champagne bubbles and acidity, try Chablis or Sancerre, even generic Chardonnay or Sauvignon blanc if you want copies.
Comtesse de Vichy
An unpasteurized cow’s milk cheese from Auvergne, specifically Vichy. Relatively new cheese since it was first made around 2004. Artisanal with a volume of about 35 tons a year. Disc formed cheese at about a pound and wrapped in bark to hold its shape. Bloomy rind that eventually will be furnished with yellowish specks. Fine pale yellow paste with some small scattered holes. Need some room temperature before eating, that will soften the cheese and release a lot of flavor. Might remind you of Coulommiers but Comtesse de Vichy has its own identity. Mild, but still with some character. Milk and herbs. A very good bloomy rind cheese in my opinion. And not very common.
To drink: A gentle east side Bordeaux. If you want to drink a white wine try a semi dry Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling, not to speak of Champagne.
Not the same as Brie de Coulommiers. Smaller, but higher (12 to 15 cm wide and three to four cm high) and might come as an artisan cheese made of raw milk or an industrial variety from pasteurised milk. The artisan Coulommiers is matured for eight weeks, while the industrial varieties is matured for just four weeks.
To drink: Same as for Brie. Red is fine and it might just as well be from Bordeaux as from Burgundy. Champagne, of course.
Coup de Corne
A triangular cheese with a hole through it. Raw cow’s milk. Camembert style, but ash added to the bloomy rind. Coup the Corne comes from the area Lauragais in south west France. A fine creamy texture that melts in your mouth. Runny almost straight from the fridge. As with many bloomy rind cheeses made of raw milk it has a rustic touch to it. A very likeable cheese, this is.
To drink: A light red; e.g. Beaujolais Village or a Bourgueil from the Loire. Alternatively a crisp rosé.
Unpasteurized cow’s milk cheese from the Pay de Bray in northern Normandy. Also known as Cœur de Neufchatel when it is shaped like a heart. However, it can come in other shapes as well. Soft bloomy rind cheese, maybe not Normandy’s most famous but one of the oldest. AOP status since 1969. Soft and smooth texture with good milk flavor and forest floor / mushroom and moderate salt.
To drink: This is of course a great cheese for Valentine’s day and then I think a bottle of Champagne pairs well. Rest of the year you can get some inspiration from Brie.