Fifty Best Cheese
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Cheese has been enjoyed for hundreds of years, but only recently has there been a resurgence, enhanced by new artisanal cheese producers from all over the world.


Here are the fifty best cheese classics and newcomers, listed alphabetically from 9 different countries.

 

  Country: France  
Roquefort

Roquefort
Les Causses; France
French AOC status, EU PDO

The great French blue, Roquefort rears its massive head high above the other classic blues of Europe. First, it is the senior, at least in terms of recorded history. We know Charlemagne feasted upon the cheese, loved it, and extended a primitive patent on the cheese to the villagers of Roquefort-sur-Salzon. It also reigns in terms of flavor. The paste of the cheese alone is a masterpiece; Sheep's milk expresses a lingering richness, piquant fruit note, and a smelly, gamey quality. These flavors combined with its saltiness, the mouth-filling mold, and sticky-soft paste make for one of the most flavorful cheeses on earth. Seek out those from the smaller producers, particularly Coulet, Papillion, and Carles.

 

  Country: France  

Brie de Melun
Ile-de-France, France
French AOC status, EU PDO

Brie is perhaps one of the most popular cheeses in the world, and is certainly the poster child for soft ripened cheese. At least it has been ever since Tallyrand locked a bunch of diplomats in a room in Vienna and wouldn't let them out until they declared Brie the "King of cheese". In spite of the plethora of knock-offs, real, raw milk brie from the lush pastures of Ile-de-France is a singular pleasure; in particular the bries of the village of Melun stand out. The milk gives the cheese its rustic, lactic backbone, and the molds add an earthy note of mushrooms and garlic.

Brie de Melun

 

  Country: France  

Époisses
Burgundy, France
French AOC status, EU PDO

The secret lover of stinky cheese fans everywhere. Époisses was a nearly extinct variety of cheese revived in the last century. It is one of the smelliest cheeses on earth, yet its flavor is not nearly as strong as you might think. Instead, the paste is mellow, fruity and elegant. The brand to seek is Berthaut.

Époisses

 

  Country: France  

Tomme De Savoie
Savoie, France
French AOC, EU PDO

Tomme is proof that great cheese can be humble. It's a very simple mountain style, sort of a rustic little brother to the great gruyeres of the Western Alps. The relatively simple recipe results in a cheese with a host of interesting flavors. It alternates between creamy, beefy, mushroomy, buttery, and occasionally vegetal. When buying remember the three cardinal rules of tomme: Seek out those made by the village of Thones, always buy raw milk versions, and the best time of year is late November through early February, when the spring and summer milk are available.

Tomme De Savoie

 

  Country: France  

Camembert de Normandie
France
French AOC, EU PDO

A much abused name, Camembert deserves its reputation, as long as we refer to the original. Soft-ripened cheese is simple and delicious stuff, and owes much of its flavor to the quality of the milk, hence the pastureland where it is made. In this regard, it doesn't get much better than Normandy, and some of the cheese's fame no doubt rests upon the shoulders of the famous Norman milk. As far as flavor, look for the same you'd seek in any soft ripened cheese: Mushrooms, garlic, green peas, fresh mold, and milk.

Camembert de Normandie

 

  Country: France  
Selles-sur-Cher

Selles-sur-Cher
Loire Valley, France
French AOC, EU PDO

The Loire Valley is the land of the goat. Each little village is famous for at least one of the several little chevres it manufactures. Selles-sur-Cher is particularly wonderful because its flat, disc like shape allows it to ripen quickly. It passes from a soft fresh cheese, into a firmer chalkier cheese with a full barnyard bite with grace and ease. Of course the cheese is tasty and edible at several stages of its life, but be sure to try some that are a little older.

 

  Country: France  

Saint-Marcellin
Dauphin, France

This is back woods Brie! A very simply made, acid curd cheese. Tart and fluffy when young, but will ripen into a very runny, earthy, zippy cheese. It's a perfect lunch with some pilsner, crusty bread and a cacciatorini.

Saint-Marcellin

 

  Country: France  
Fium'Orbu

Fium'Orbu
Corsica

This rare, washed sheep from Corsica is a real treat. The power of sheep's milk coupled with a strong washed rind means a rich, fatty paste that's also super stank. It's like eating rancid bacon fat and mayo, and loving it.

 

  Country: France  

Charolais
Burgundy, France

Usually you want French goat's milk from the Loire, but Burgundy makes some great goat too. Be sure to find this guy. He's still fluffy and tart like a Loire chevre, but the flavor is a little more dirt, a little less stone. Some of the best Charolais have a touch of cow's milk added. When these cheeses are aged, they pick up a great lemony quality that sits nicely with Pinot Noir.

Charolais

 

  Country: France  

Pont-l'Évêque
Normandy, France
French AOC, EU PDO

Pont-l'Évêque is yet another cheese to take advantage of the fine quality of Norman milk, but this time, we got a lil' stinker. Pont-l'Évêque is a small, flat square with a thick full bodied paste. The stinky aromas of the rind barely touch the paste, which instead has its own eggy funk, and a flavor reminiscent of canned cooked vegetables.

Pont-l'Évêque

 



 
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