Your Guide to French Cheese

With so much delectable French fromages to choose from, what should you go for and what do you pair it with? Think outside the box with these heavenly cheese platter ideas.

There's no better or delicious way to pay homage to France on Bastille Day in July than indulging in a scrumptious cheese platter. But with so many delectable French fromages to choose from, it can prove difficult in finding that perfect match.

“Pairing is not a science nor is it to written in stone," says Steven Kirk, cheese supplier and importer to "Good quality and good company is a good start though."

Although French cheese and wine is a match made in heaven, Kirk recommends thinking outside the box. “Wine does work well with cheese but so do beer and spirits. Think outside the box. Remember that taste is an individual thing,” he adds.

Cheese: Coulommiers

Coulommiers is a mould-ripened cheese similar to Brie or Camembert, traditionally made in the Île de-France area. It has an extra rich and creamy body, and is usually about 350 grams in size, which makes it a perfect hero piece for a cheese platter for about 4 - 6 people.

Pair with: Keep it simple! Try sourdough bread and an American style brown ale.

Cheese: Washed Rind 

Washed Rind is made with affinage, which means washing the cheese surface with a brined bacterial solution. The bacteria produces an orange rind with a full bouquet, which becomes more pronounced with age. Washed rinds are made from different milks, so the flavour can vary depending on the style and size. Usually it starts with a mild nuttiness and as the cheese matures, it can be a well-rounded, full flavour.

Pair with: Whisky – a nice smoky single malt is a nice complement.

Cheese: Camembert and Brie

The recipe for Camembert and Brie is very similar, although traditionally Camembert is made in Normandy while Brie is produced in Île-de-France. A Camembert is usually no bigger than 250 grams, while Brie can range be up to three kilos in size. Flavours range from big and meaty to zingy and lactic.

Pair with: Fruit will always go well with Brie and Camembert, pear is usually an excellent choice. Enjoy with Calvados, an apple brandy from Normandy!

Cheese: Triple Cream 

Triple cream is a mould-ripened cheese with a high, butterfat content (around 70 - 75 per cent). It has a very rich flavour, almost buttery. Because of the high fat content, triple cream can take some time to mature compared to a brie or camembert. Look for a white mould that has just started to deteriorate (you can tell by small, brownish flecks on the rind) for a more earthy and fuller character.

Pair with: Champagne – the fizz and sharpness cuts through the richness and makes for a sharp contrast.

Cheese: Chèvre

Chèvre is made of goat’s milk, and there are different types of Chèvres – mould-ripened, hard matured, washed rinds, blues and fresh. No matter the style, Chèvre has a distinct goat’s milk flavour, which will vary across styles in intensity.

Pair with: A highly hopped IPA (India Pale Ale) - the citrus flavour from the hops complement goats cheese well.

Cheese: Bresse Bleu

Bresse Bleu was the first manufactured blue Brie, and will appeal to the palette that is a bit scared of blue cheese. This cheese is peppered with little pockets of blue, which are mild in flavour in a young cheese and develop to be more intense over time. The texture varies from sticky to gooey.

Pair with: For the young cheese, try an unoaked Chardonnay. For the matured version, enjoy with Port.

Love cooking with cheese? Check out our Cheese Recipe Collection

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