Chèvre, the very notion of white, soft, fresh goat’s milk cheese. Chèvre simply means goat in French and is a generic noun. If you keep reading you will notice there is a lot of goat milk cheeses, Chèvre, quite similar but with various names and most of all shapes. Most people probably connect Chèvre with the Loire valley in France. This type of cheese is, however, made a lot of other places in France as well, well worth exploring. As mentioned, Chèvre comes i many different shapes; pyramids, logs, cylindrical, bricks, wheel formed and so on. This type of cheese, or cheese family if you like, has a long history, way back to when the Arabs inhabited southern Europe, mainly the Iberia peninsula and Gallia. The texture varies from very soft and creamy to rather dry when it has matured for a few weeks. Distinct taste and smell of goat. hardly in doubt about what you’re eating.
To drink: The classic combination is Sauvignon blanc from the Loire. (On the terrace in the sunset.)
This unpasteurized Chèvre is from the northern Provence, more exact from the area around the town of Banon. AOP protection since 2003. Traditionally wrapped in leaves from the chestnut tree and tied up with raffia. Charming this wrapping, but without much practical significance these days. A cheese with traditions way back to the Gallo-Roman era. Not always a one-milk-cheese as cows milk or sheep milk may sometimes be blended in. Defines as a Chèvre though. Washed in local marc (eau-de-vie). Creamy texture. White color. The cheese is matured for a few weeks before release. Stored too long it will develop an intense goat aroma. Can be both far stead and industrial. Try one from the Masto family if you can get hold of it. More common is the industrial variety from Etoile.
To drink: A dry rosé from Provence or a sweet Jurançon. Both served well chilled.
A raw and quite fresh goat milk cheese which often comes with a herb sprig; rosemary or a small fern leaf on top. Shaped like a kind of projectile, thicker in the middle, pointed at both ends. Great white bloomy rind. Matures in three weeks. Fine milk aroma, and taste of goat naturally, but also herbs such as rosemary and thyme. It comes from Tarn Garrigues du Midi. The area north of Toulouse.
To drink: White and dry. Feel free to try a local wine; Marsanne grape, it is seldom wrong. But Sancerre and the like from the Loire is also great company for this cheese.
This goat’s milk cheese is ivory colored with white mold on the outside. Soft to semi-soft texture. Very mild when it is fresh but turns much sharper and drier with storage. Great cheese that pairs well with a nut or fruit bread.
To drink: White Loire wines or equivalent from other parts of the world if you’re going for copies.
Buchette de Manon
Soft fermier goat cheese from Provence. Unpasteurized and organic. Distinctive by its long thin tubular shape, resting on a small, thin piece of wood and has a sprig of Summer Savory on top. Produced by a small farm in Simian la Rotonde near Banon, ie in the mountains a bit up in Provence. Must NOT be confused with Buchette de Banon which is same style but a commercial variety. Can not be compared. Distinctive taste of goat and barnyard, but also hints of herbs, especially Summer Savory, naturally enough. A cheese for connoisseurs. Produced only in small quantities, distributed by Mons.
To drink: Cheese from Provence requires wines from Provence. Dry white, but also dry and fresh rosé will pair well.
Soft unpasteurized goat’s milk cheese from the Loubieres area in Midi-Pyrénées, south-western France. Similar to Mont d’Or, with the exception of milk type and the area it comes from. Also comes in similar packaging. Wonderful wonderful goat taste. Washed rind. Matured a month before sale. Weak orange rind, pale white paste. Heat in oven at 180 degrees for 25 minutes and eat with a spoon. Good bread. Can be used as a mini-fondue.
To drink: A white and dry from the Languedoc-Roussillon region.
Cabri de Touraine
A goat milk cheese from the Touraine area in the western part of the Loire Valley. This is typical chèvre. Having a conical shape with a flat top. Unpasteurized and farm produced with milk only from the farmers own goats. Cabri is a generic term as there are many Cabris with subsequent name of origin such as Le Cabri-Bors or Le Cabri-Ariegeois to name two. Matured for four weeks. The rind is initially white getting more and more reddish as the cheese matures. It has a firm, slightly moist, but crumbly texture. Fresh taste of goat and the smell of barnyard is easy to find. Very good cheese.
To drink: Sauvignon blanc. This is also a Loire cheese which requires a white Loire wine. If you want a sweet touch in the wine I recommend a Chenin blanc. Personally I prefer a Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé.
Shaped like a large flat wheel. From the Carcassonne area in Languedoc, France. Unpasteurized. Aged for two to three weeks, but also sold quite fresh, at least locally. All cheeses carry the crest of its region. The “occitane” cross is inscribed onto the cheese top. The surface is covered in ash, mixed with a little mold after some time. Looks a bit grayish. Nice aroma and taste of goat, but also hints of nuts. Soft, pale rind, paste that quickly runs away if you leave it for a while on the kitchen counter. Very good Chèvre, also very decorative on any cheese board.
To drink: White and dry. Feel free to try a local one; Marsanne grape, it is rarely wrong.
Chabichou du Poitou
Chabichou du Poitou is a small goat milk cheese shaped like a pyramid and can be farmstead (fermier), co-operative or industrially made. Look for the fermier variety, it is the best. Best young, naturally more mature after about two months of storage, but also much drier. Chabichou du Poitou has a rich and sweet taste, goaty but with a nice acidity with balanced salt towards the end. With the fresh acidity and salty taste this is a great cheese for bright and balmy summer evenings. AOP since 1990.
To drink: Dry white Loire such as Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé, even equivalent style from other regions.
A Chèvre from Burgundy. Not to be confused with the cattle breed. A small cylindrical goat cheese with ash and fine mold growth around. Unpasteurized. Have AOC protection from as late as 2010. A relatively mild cheese that actually makes as much impression after you’ve swallowed it as when you have it in your mouth.
To drink: A not too complicated and heavy white burgundy. Avoid too much oak.
Crottin de Chavignol
This goat milk cheese is from the Berry area of the Loire. As with most of these cheeses it tastes quite different fresh and ripe. Becomes drier with storage. Most often it is eaten young when it is moist and has a more tender taste than the stored varieties. The taste is more elegant young but with distinct goat flavor. Also possible to get a blue stain mark when it is stored for more than a month. AOP since 1976.
To drink: Sancerre of course. So here is a classic example showing cheese and wine from the same area pair well.
Chevrotin’s cheese from unpasteurized milk and only farmstead (fermier). Produced in the mountains of the same areas as Reblochon and is very similar to this except that Chevrotin is from goat milk. Haute-Savoie, in other words. Goats and cows often graze together in this area and cheeses are often matured together in the cellars as well. Production is small, only around 85 tonnes per year. Smooth texture and complex flavors; so you should have quite dull taste buds not to get a real cheese experience. AOP since 2002.
To drink: Why not try a local wine from Savoie. Chautagne Mondeuse Vin de Savoie is an example of that. Alternatively, a dry white wine from the Marsanne and Roussanne grapes.
Cabécou means small goat cheese in what is called Langue d’Oc, which is the ancient language of the south. And Double Cabécou is just that. From the southwest of France. Compact, yet soft and resilient off-white rind. Starting out mild in flavor but tells you at the back of the palate what it is made of. Good, but be aware that it may have a sharp aftertaste.
To drink: A local dry white wine, but also than light and fruity red wine; Gaillac for example.
This is a fresh goat cheese from Burgundy. Was formerly a Charollais, but is slightly smaller. When Charollais was awarded an AOC it was also decided that it should become slightly bigger. Douillon is a somewhat smaller Charollais which has had to change its name because the farmer did not want to change his moulds. Also comes as a gorgeous frais version; which means fresh. Rindless, unpasteurized and wonderful fresh taste. Farmstead.
To drink: As for Charollais: a not so very complicated and heavy white burgundy. Avoid too much oak.
Lingot Saint Nicolas de la Monastère
From Hérault in the south-west of France. A wonderful cheese shaped like a small brick. Wrinkled rind that has color as Devon cream for those who are familiar with that, perhaps easier to say pale yellow? Great texture, the cheese is white with a snowy slightly firmer core as so often with these relatively fresh goat’s milk cheeses. Great but mild goat flavor and very distinct taste of thyme because the goats largely feed on wild growing thyme.
To drink: Sauvignon blanc.
Buchette de Manon’s brother this. A raw and organic farmstead chèvre, which, like its brother is stored a little longer than usual for Chèvre. From the small town of Simian la Rotonde near Banon, who are up in the Provence Alps. This cheese is for connoisseurs, which has to do with maturation. Much barnyard and goat farming. A small cheese, a few mouthfuls with its 55 grams. Wrapped in a chestnut leaf, so remove it before you eat it. Slightly pale yellow curd resulting from the storage. Some integrated Summer Savory in this, as apparently is this farm’s trademark.
To drink: Cheese from Provence requires wine from Provence. Dry white, but also dry and fresh rosé will pair well.
If you come across this one do try it. This is a Cabécou wrapped in walnut leaves and then sprinkled with plum brandy and added some crushed pepper. It will be stored in airtight containers. A very spicy cheese, also indicated by the name.
To drink: With a very spicy flavor including pepper I’d try a not too sweet Jurançon with this cheese.
Geographically we’re now fairly deep into the southern Rhône valley but north of where the river’s delta begins to spread beyond where it is quite mountainous on both sides. The cheese Picodon as is made of unpasteurized goat’s milk has been AOP protected since 1983. Produced both on the east side (Drôme) and west (Ardèche) of the Rhône river. Picodon comes in several varieties and may be both fresh and stored in varying length. Picodon de l’Ardèche, Picodon de la Drôme, Picodon Carte Noire, Picodon de Crest (perhaps the greatest), Picodon the Dieulefit and Picodon du Dauphiné (which is extra mature) are all different varieties of the same cheese. Some even come soaked in olive oil with bay leaves. The cheese has a nice spicy character derived from what the goats eat.
To drink: White wine from the southern Rhone is well suited to this cheese.
Le Pisé du Lot
A Chèvre from the village Lachapelle Auzac in the department of Lot, about two and a half hours drive east of Bordeaux. Round cheese, 8 cm diameter, 1 cm high; weighs approx. 160 g. Matured for two weeks. Soft and supple. Definitely a goat’s cheese. Unpasteurized.
To drink: A white from Entre-deux-Mers.
Pouligny St. Pierre
A goat’s milk cheese from Pouligny St. Pierre in the department of Indre in the Loire; Berry province. Unpasteurized goat’s milk with no exception. (Some Chèvre comes in pasteurized varieties to match the market). Can be farmstead (fermier) or industrial. Normally, about 55% of production is fermier. Fermier has a green tag (look for this) and the industrial has a red tag. The season for fermier variety is from late spring to autumn. So if you buy this midwinter it is an industrial variety. Matures a few weeks, but the best mature five weeks’ time, when they will become equipped with quite a hard and inedible rind. Great pronounced flavor. Taste gets more intense with storage, but never particularly sharp. Simply a great cheese. Relatively modest production, so grab on if you come upon it. Have AOC protection, the smallest and, among Chèvre, oldest; since 1972.
To drink: Several white wines will work well with this cheese. Sancerre, mature Chablis and village Burgundies too. Locally, they will probably drink Reuilly.
Rigotte de Condrieu
An unpasteurized fermier Chèvre from the Lyon region. The cheese is produced at about 15 farms in the area. Matures up to three weeks and develops a fine bloomy rind during that time. Very pale orange paste. Also available fresh. Then it is white and clean without the a developed rind. A delicate scent of acacia and honey as it goes through maturation. AOC since 2008, named after the village of Condrieu, probably considerably more famous for wine than the cheese.
To drink: Would not dream of drinking anything but Condrieu. I.e. a white wine from northern Rhône made from Viognier grape.
A gem of a fresh unpasteurized goat milk cheese from the Lot area in south-west France. Very small and round, delicate little cheese this, with its modest 35 grams. Usually eaten after only 12 to 15 days of maturing. It gets really intense with further maturation, almost like it burns in the mouth, so I prefer the fresh ones. The whole cheese is just a mouthful. Eat like a little toast, in salads or alone after the main course. The cheese has a thin but firm rind, just to eat, and the paste is usually a little runny and creamy. That’s why the one bite is best. Since it is the size it is, this is not a cheese for sharing, so buy more than one. A nice, light and likable Chèvre. AOP since 1996.
To drink: A fruity young wine, or as always: local white.
Sainte-Maure de Touraine
This is a farmstead goat milk cheese from Touraine in the Loire Valley. Like most fermier cheeses it is made from unpasteurized milk. Shaped as a small log. It is white and soft under a rind with salt and gray ash. Especially with this cheese is that it has a straw of rye through the middle, labeled with the cheese AOC seal and a number identifying the manufacturer. It has a fresh hay aroma and a mild lemon-like flavor. Must NOT be confused with Sainte-Maure which is industrially manufactured. AOC since 1990.
To drink: Like most French goat milk cheeses, Sauvignon blanc applies. But feel free to try something else white and dry, Riesling perhaps? After all, it is your cheese.
Selles sur Cher
Selles sur Cher comes from the Loire-et-Cher. Manufactured from unpasteurised goat’s milk and covered with ash. Matured for about three weeks, and gray mold develops during maturation. All of the cheese including the rind may very well be eaten. Recommended. This is a medium strong Chèvre with good acidity, taste of ash, some hints of cellar with round and nutty aftertaste. One of the oldest-chèvre cheeses that exist. AOC protection in 1975.
To drink: Here, often whenever there is talk of chèvre, the Sauvignon blanc from the Loire apply.
A small Chèvre from the Tarentaise region of Savoie. Fun cheese with lots of flavor, some will probably say it has too much taste. The rind is a little too big so it has curled up, with hints of both white, yellow and blue mold in varying degrees depending on how mature it is. Quite compact and crumbly with a distinct nutty flavor. The cheese has a fairly short season from late spring till early fall. Make sure there is white mold over the yellow, then the cheese is best.
To drink: Drink local, I suggest Savoie Chignin. Fresh and rich in acidity. Matches the cheese well.
Valençay is a farm manufactured goat cheese from the town of the same name in the Loire. The Berry province. Valençay lies in a straight line south of Orleans. A known area of fresh goat cheese this. Shaped like a pyramid, but the top is cut off. The story has it that it was Napoleon who did this after an unsuccessful campaign to Egypt. So it be. From unpasteurized goat’s milk, but there are pasteurized varieties too, so make sure it is au lait cru. Best during spring and early summer but is produced all year round. Has a soft rind that has both mold and covered with a thin layer of ash. Matures for three weeks. Has a great goat flavor. Also hints of earth and with a good acidity. Well suited for grilling, for example, on a toast. AOP since 1998.
To drink: Sauvignon blanc, preferably Sancerre or Fumé Puilly.