Say fromage! The best cheeses for National Cheese Day in France

The national day seeks to champion rare and raw milk cheeses from across the country: Here are some of the best

Cheeses including Mont d'Or, Salers, Rochebaron and Epoisses
The national day was created in 2001 and aims to celebrate and raise awareness of French raw milk cheese as a “theme of national importance”
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Today (Sunday, March 27) marks National Cheese Day in France, or la Journée nationale du fromage, which seeks to champion rare cheeses and those from raw milk, across the country.

Cheesemongers and makers have been invited to participate and many may be displaying labels or signs to that effect. Some may be offering special offers on raw milk cheese and some local restaurants may also be offering a participatory “plate for €1”.

The national day was created in 2001 and aims to celebrate and raise awareness of French raw milk cheese as a “theme of national importance”.

The official website states: “Much more than a food product, it symbolises our culture, our know-how, the diversity and colour of our land, the variety of animal breeds that have shaped the landscape, and our gastronomic reputation throughout the world.”

The Guide du Fromage association has called for French raw cheese to be considered equal to wine when it comes to the “major cultural products” of the country, and for “grands crus” to be recognised in the same way.

It asked, somewhat tongue-in-cheek: “Where are the maps of cheese in restaurants, or specialists advising their clients [in the same way as sommeliers for wine]? Is there specialist media dedicated to cheese?”

It said: “The association is alerting French citizens to the ‘trivialisation’ of this product, [despite it being] highly symbolic of a centuries-old heritage.”

The Association fromages de terroirs (AFT) added: “Raw milk cheese…is still too often marginalised in France.

“The consumption of raw milk cheeses decreases each year by about 4% while the overall consumption of cheeses remains stable (25kg per year per inhabitant).”

Raw milk cheese is cheese made with non-sterilised milk, and proponents say that it is safe, healthy, and good for the environment.

The AFT states: “National cheese day is a unique opportunity for cheese lovers to share a moment of tasting and discovery.”

A raw cheese selection for your cheeseboard

So what are some of the best raw milk cheeses in France? Online taste and flavour encylopedia TasteAtlas rated them last year, including these in the top five:

1. Salers

Image: Foodpictures / Shutterstock

From the region of Cantal, made immediately after milking, matured for at least three months. Rich yellow in colour, with a taste that is “nutty, spicy and intense, reminiscent of raw onions, wild flowers, and freshly cut grass”.

2. Rochebaron

Image: Picture Partners / Shutterstock

A blue cheese made from cow’s or sheep’s milk. Matured for at least 30 days, and dusted with ash. A “mild, mushroomy and creamy” flavour, and particularly good with fresh fruit and Pinot Noir.

3. Mont d’Or

Image: slowmotiongli / Shutterstock

A very soft cow’s milk cheese from the Haut-Doubs. Packaged in a wooden spice box. A “full, rich, sweet, grassy and slightly acidic” flavour. Good with sparkling wine.

4. Époisses

Image: Foodpictures / Shutterstock

A cow’s milk cheese from Burgundy, recognisable by its glossy, orange rind. Matured for at least four weeks. Flavours are “salty, spicy and sweet”, but with such a smelly scent that it has reportedly been banned from public transport in France.

5. Chavignol

Image: Elinaxx1v / Shutterstock

A small, round goat’s milk cheese, with a thin, moldy rind. A “full and slightly nutty” taste, with a “dense, moist texture”. Matured for up to three months, and becomes drier the older it is. Good when grilled in a salad, and eaten with bread and bacon.

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