French cheese and wine pairing suggestions

As much as I believe the world of wine should be unpretentious and down to Earth, a truth is that any wine matched with any cheese does not automatically provide a rewarding combination.

 

It takes time, knowledge and experimentation to pair the right cheeses with the right wines. I hope this guide will get you on a positive track and helps give some confidence, ideas and joy.

Pairing cheese and wine should be less about fixed rules and focus instead on fun and the principles behind the pairings.

 

Many French cheeses are listed along with suggested wine types. The cheeses highlighted link to and can be purchased from the excellent

Fromages.com

A condensed guide is to pair cheese and

wine that share a similar terroir, for both will be in harmony. The same Appellation d'origine protégée/contrôlée (AOP/AOC) is likely to be a good start, but even if the cheese and wine come from different regions, as long as the terroir is similar,

the pairing is likely to be rewarding. 

Also think about how tannic the wine is, and pair high tannins with fatty cheeses. Too much tannin tastes bad in the mouth and the proteins in cheese bind to tannins and thus moderate the taste. Likewise, a gentle low fat cheese probably needs a delicate wine. But these are just rough rules of thumb. Experiment!

Protected Designation of Origin (PDO)

designates a product in which all production stages are carried out according to recognized know-how in the same geographical area, which gives the product its characteristics.

Appellation d'origine contrôlée/protégée (AOC/AOP)

designates products meeting the criteria of PDO and protects the name on French territory only. 

It is a step towards PDO.

Indication géographique protégée (IGP)

identifies an agricultural product, raw or processed, whose quality, reputation or other characteristics are linked to its geographical origin.

A

Abondance (AOP) is a pressed cows milk cheese from the Rhône Alpes. It pairs with Auvergne Rhône Alpes wines such as Roussette de Savoie (Altesse) for whites, or from Rhône Beaujolais (Gamay Noir) for reds.

Abondance and Beaufort.jpg

Abondance (left) and Beaufort (right) paired with a 

Roussette de Savoie 2019, Domaine Jean Perrier & Fils.

A Casinca is a soft uncooked, unpressed goat's cheese from Corsica and pairs well with Corsican wines such as Sartène (Vermentino, Sciaccarello) for whites or Patrimonio (Niellucciu) for reds.

 

Anneau du Vic Bilh is a soft dough goat’s cheese from the Midi Pyrénées and pairs with Pacherenc du Vic Bilh Sec (Arrufiat, Manseng, Courbu).

Ardi Gasna means sheep's cheese in Basque and is a raw whole milk sheep's cheese, pressed and cooked, from the Midi Pyrénées. It pairs excellently with fruity and tannic red wine from Irouléguy (Tannat, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon).

Aveyronnais is a soft and creamy cow's cheese from the Midi Pyrénées and pairs with Cahors (Auxerrois, Merlot, Tannat) which is also from the Midi Pyrénées.

B

Banon (PDO) is a soft pâté goat's cheese from Provence. It pairs well with wines from Marsanne or Viognier grapes.

Banon.jpg

Banon paired with a Marsanne 2019 from Louis Cheze

Bears paw is an unpasteurized blend of 1/3 sheep's and 2/3 cow's milk cheese from the Pyrénées and pairs well with any powerful and tannic red, especially from Madira or Cahors using Tannat and Fer grapes.

Beaufort (AOP) is made from pressed and cooked cow's milk and comes in three varieties, Beaufort, Beaufort d'été and Beaufort Chalet d'alpage all from the Rhône Alpes. All pair well with Roussette de Savoie (Altesse) or Chignin Bergeron (Roussanne Blanc) for whites or Beaujolais (Gamay Noir) for reds.

Bleu d'Auvergne (AOP) is a parsely paste dough soft cheese from cow's milk and pairs with Vin de Paille du Jura (savagnin, chardonnay, poulsard).

Vin de Paille.jpg

Bleu D'Auvergne paired with 2015 Vin de Paille by Domaine Badoz

Bleu du Bocage is a goat's milk cheese from the Vendée region and pairs well with Coteaux du Layon (Chenin Blanc).

Bleu du Gex (AOP) is a parsley paste dough soft cow's milk cheese from Franche Comté Haut Jura. It pairs well with Jura Savagnin or Chardonnay for the whites or with a strong Jura Trousseau for the reds.

Bleu de Laqueuille is a parsley paste dough soft cheese from cow's milk from Puy de Dôme in the Auvergne Rhône Alpes. It pairs well with Hermitage Vin de Paille (Marsanne) for straw wines, or Côtes d'Auvergne (Pinot Noir, Gamay) for reds.

Bleu du Vercors Sassenage (AOP) is a parsley paste dough soft cheese from cow's milk made in the former province of Dauphiné, now Isère and Drôme. It pairs well with Isère wines: Jacquere, Altesse, Chasselas for whites, or Etraire de la Dui and Verdesse for reds.

Bleu des Causses (PDO) is an uncooked, unpressed pâté from cow's milk and aged for 3 to 6 months in the Gorges du Tarn caves, Lozère. It pairs well with red or white Pays d'Oc, especially estates around Ispagnac: Pinot Noir, Syrah and Marsellan in red, Sauvignon and Chardonnay in white.

Bondon à la Fleur de Sel is a soft dough goat's cheese from Poitou Charentes, Nouvelle Aquitaine. It pairs well with Muscadet (Melon de Bourgogne) or Haut Poitou (Sauvignon, Chardonnay).

Boucanier is a soft dough goat's cheese from Sisteron in the Alpes de Haute Provence. It pairs well with Bandol:

Clairette, Rolle, Sauvignon Blanc, Bourboulenc, Marsanne, Ugni Blanc, and Sémillon for whites, or Mourvèdre, Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan, and Syrah for reds.

Bouton d'Oc is a soft dough goat's cheese from the Midi Pyrénées. It pairs well with Gaillac blanc sec (Mauzac, L'En de l'El, Ondenc) for whites.

Bouyguette is a raw goat's milk soft dough cheese from Tarn in southern France. It pairs well with Tavel rosé.

Brebis du Lavort is an uncooked, pressed sheep's milk from the Auvergne that pairs well with Jurançon sec (Manseng, Courbu). It is very subtle and understated cream flavour with a slight hint of nut, spongy and mild in texture.

Brebis du Lavort

Brebis du Lavort paired with a 2019 Jurançon Sec by Domaine Cauhapé

Bresse Bleu is a soft blue cheese from pasteurized cow's milk from the former province of Bresse, which straddles the Auvergne Rhône Alpes and Bourgogne Franche Comté. It pairs well with Muscat.

Brie de Meaux (AOP) is a soft, creamy cheese with a bloomy rind made from cow's milk from the Brie region of Seine et Marne, 50 kilometers to the east of Paris. It has quite a strong, ripe smell and taste! It pairs well with Monthélie (Pinot Noir) reds or Savennières (Chenin Blanc) whites.

Brie de Mieux.JPG

Brie de Meaux paired with a 2014 Savennières

Brillat Savarin (IGP) is a soft cheese with a bloomy rind made from cow's milk from Bourgogne. It is so silky and creamy, but not in a sickly or sweet way. One of my very favourite cheeses! It pairs well with Champagne or Côte de Beaune (Chardonnay) for whites, or Saint Émilion (Merlot, Cabernet Franc) for reds.

Brillat Savarin et Comte

Brillat Savarin and Comté paired with a 2011 Grand Cru Champagne

Briquette du Forez is a dry matured soft goat's cheese from the Loire and pairs well with Côte Roannaise (Gamay Noir).

Buchette Cendrée Sec is a raw milk soft dough goat's cheese from Deux Sèvres in Nouvelle-Aquitaine. It pairs well with a blanc sec such as Graves.

C

Camembert de Normandie (AOP) is a soft cheese made from raw cow's milk with a bloomy rind and pairs well with it pairs with Quarts de Chaume (Chenin Blanc) for whites and an Arpents du Soleil (Pinot Noir) for reds.

Cantal Entre Deux (AOP) is an uncooked, firm pressed cow's cheese from the Auvergne. You will always be advised by people to pair it with a strong red such as Bordeaux Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. However, it pairs well with a local Côtes d'Auvergne: Gamay, Pinot Noir for reds, or chardonnay for whites.

Cathare is a soft pâté goat's cheese bearing the Occitane cross and pairs well with Gaillac (Mauzac, L'En de l'El, Ondenc) for whites.

Chabichou du Poitou (AOP) is a soft dough goat's cheese with a white, yellow or bluish mold rind from Nouvelle Aquitaine. It pairs with Haut Poitou (Sauvignon,  Chardonnay) for whites, or Cheverny  and Coteaux du Vendômois (Pineau D'Aunis) for rosé and reds.

Chaource (PDO) is a creamy, uncooked, unpressed cow's cheese from the Champagne Ardenne region. It pairs well with Chablis (Chardonnay) for white, or Irancy (Pinot Noir, César) for red.

Charolais (PDO) is a soft pâté goat's cheese with a blue or grey rind from Charola, in Bourgogne. It pairs well with Montagny (Chardonnay) for whites, and Bourgogne (Pinot Noir) for reds.

Chèvre Figue à la Rose is a raw milk soft pâté goat's cheese from Provence that pairs with Bandol (Mourvèdre, Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan, Syrah) for reds.

Coeur de Chèvre is a raw milk soft dough goat's cheese shaped like a heart from the Poitou Charentes. It pairs well with Haut Poitou or Pineau des Charentes:

Ugni Blanc, Colombard, Semillon, Montils, Sauvignon Blanc for whites, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Gamay for reds.

Coeur de Neufchatel (AOP) a creamy soft cow's cheese shaped like a heart, with a bloomy rind. Made in Neufchâtel en Bray, Normandy, it pairs with Quarts de Chaume (Chenin Blanc) for whites and an Arpents du Soleil (Pinot Noir) for reds.

Comté (AOP) is a matured, pressed and cooked unpasteurized cow's milk cheese from the Franche Comté of eastern France bordering Switzerland. Grainy in texture, hardened salty cream in taste, with subtle nutty notes. It pairs well with Champagne or Arbois (Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Savagnin) for whites, Château Chalon (Savagnin) for orange wines, or Arbois (trousseau, poulsard) for reds.

Coulommiers is similar to Brie, a soft cow's milk with a bloomy rind from the Seine et Marne in the Île de France. It pairs with Champagne, or Seine et Marne white (Chardonnay) or red (Pinot Noir).

Couronne Lochoise is a donut shaped soft dough goat's cheese from the the Indre et Loire in central France. It pairs with Sancerre (Sauvignon) for whites or Touraine (Gamay Noir, Cabernet Franc) and Beaujolais Nouveau for reds.

E

Ecir de l'Aubrac is a soft cow's cheese with a bloomy rind from Aveyron in southern France. It is a truly special cheese, pairing with Condrieu (Viognier) for white or Marcillac (Fer Servadou, Cabernet Franc) for red.

Emmantal Grand Cru is a cooked, hard pressed cow's cheese, with holes. It originated in Switzerland, and now made in throughout France, but only Emmental de Savoie and French Emmental Est Central Label Rouge are matured in a way to be Grand Cru. It pairs with Givry (Chardonnay) for whites or Rully (Pinot Noir) for reds.

Époisses de Bourgogne (AOP) is a soft cow's cheese with strong flavour and orange rind from the village of Époisses in the Côte-d'Or, washed with salt water and Marc de Bourgogne. It pairs with Chablis or Chassagne Montrachet (Chardonnay).

F

Filetta Corsica is unsurprisingly from Corsica, where filetta means fern. An uncooked, unpressed, soft cheese made from ewe's milk and pairs well with Muscat du Cap Corse (Muscat Blanc) for whites or Patrimonio (Niellucciu).

Fourme d'Ambert (AOP) is a parsley paste blue cow's cheese from the Auvergne. It pairs well with Vouvray Moelleux (Chenin Blanc) for whites or Côtes d'Auvergne (Gamay Noir) and Banyuls (Grenache Noir) for reds.

Fourme de Montbrison (AOP) is a parsley paste blue cow's cheese, slightly nutty, from the Auvergne. It pairs well with Muscat de Beaumes de Venise for whites or Côtes du Forez (Gamay Noir) for reds.

Fourme de Rochefort is an uncooked, pressed, unpasteurized full cream cow's cheese from the Auvergne, with a silvery rind. It pairs well with Costières de Nîmes for sec whites or Côtes d'Auvergne (Gamay Noir) for reds. Reds or whites from Mercurey AOC also work well.

Fresh goat's cheese with Sauvignon Blanc or Champagne.

G

Gour Noir is from Correze in the Limousin. A soft dough goat's cheese with a blackish rind that pairs with Châteaumeillant (Gamay Noir, Pinot Noir).

Goutte du Limousin is a soft dough goat's cheese, unsurprisingly from Limousin, with herb hints. It pairs well with Entre Deux Mers (Sémillon, Sauvignon).

L

Laguiole is an uncooked, pressed cow's cheese with a brownish orange rind from the Aubrac plateau in the Massif Central. It pairs well with Estaing (Chenin Blanc, Mauzac, Rousselou also called Muscadelle) for whites or Marcillac (Fer Servadou, locally called Mansois, or Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc) for reds.

Langres (AOP) is a soft cow's cheese with a rind that looks like an orange brain from Haute Marne. It pairs with St Aubin (Chardonnay) for whites or Volnay (Pinot Noir) for reds. Dripping a couple of drops of Marc de Champagne on the rind before eating is nice.

M

Mimolette Jeune is a semi hard uncooked, pressed, orange cow's cheese matured between 6 to 18 months, with a grey rind. It pairs with Riesling for whites or Châteauneuf du Pape (Grenache Noir, Syrah) for reds.

Montbriac is a blue veined creamy parsley paste cow's cheese from the Haute Loire with a blackish rind. It pairs with Chinon, St. Nicolas de Bourgueil and Saumur Champigny (Cabernet Franc).

Montrachet is a single farm in Saint Gengoux le National, Côte de Beaune. A soft dough goat's cheese, wrapped in a leaf. It pairs with Meursault or Chassagne Montrachet (both Chardonnay).

Morbier is a Franche Comté that is uncooked but pressed, creamy and soft cow's cheese with a blue vein in the centre and with hints of herbs. It pairs with Etoile (Chardonnay, Savagnin) for straw wine or Cinsault Rosé or Mercurey (Pinot Noir) for reds.

Mothais sur Feuille is a soft dough goat's cheese from the the Poitou Charentes. It pairs well with Haut Poitou (Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay) for whites or Touraine (Gamay Noir, Cabernet Franc) for reds.

Mottin Charentais is a creamy cow's milk cheese from Saint Saviol in Vienne that pairs well with Champagne.

Moulis is an uncooked, pressed goat's cheese from Ariège in the Midi Pyrénées that has a distinct flavor of fermentation and decomposition which stings the tongue. It pairs well with Haut Médoc (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc) or Margaux.

O

Ossau Iraty (AOP) is uncooked, pressed Basque sheep's cheese from the Béarn valley that is mild and has hints of hazelnut. It pairs with Irouléguy (Manseng, Courbu) for whites or Côtes de St Mont (Tannat) for reds. It also goes well with almost any Syrah.

P

Perail de Brebis is a soft sheep's cheese with a bloomy rind from Aveyron in the Causses massif. It pairs with Cassis (Ugni Blanc, Clairette) for whites, Côtes de Provence for rosé, or Marcillac (Fer Servadou, locally called Mansois, or Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc) for reds. A Bandol also works well.

Petit Pouligney Saint Pierre (AOP) is a pyramid shaped soft goat's cheese with a tangy nutty flavour produced in the Brenne valley in Loire. It pairs with Pouilly sur Loire or Sancerre (Sauvignon Blanc) for whites or Noble Joué (Pinot Meunier) for rosé.

Pont l'Evêque (AOP) is a washed, soft cow's cheese with an orange rind and comes from Normandy. It pairs with Quarts de Chaume (Chenin Blanc) for whites and an Arpents du Soleil (Pinot Noir) for reds.

R

Raclette de Savoie is an uncooked, pressed cow's cheese from the French Savoie near Switzerland. It pairs well with Roussette de Savoie (Altesse) for whites or Savoie (Mondeuse, Persan, Pinot Noir) for reds.

Reblechon (PDO) comes from Savoy and mixes milk from three breeds of cow, whey washed but uncooked and unpressed, it has an orange rind, a nutty aftertaste and a strong smell. It pairs with Crépy (Chasselas) for whites or Beaujolais Villages (Gamay Noir) for reds.

Roquefort (AOP) is a famous, creamy, parsley paste blue sheep's cheese with a pronounced flavour, from the Lacaune breed of ewe and aged in the Combalou caves. Pair with Sauternes (Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc) for whites or a bold Bordeaux for reds. 

Rove des Garrigues is a soft dough ball of goat's cheese with hints of thyme and rosemary. It is named after a small goat from Provence and pairs with Côtes du Ventoux (Clairette, Grenache) for whites or any rosé from Provence.

S

Saint Félicien is a runny soft cow's milk cheese with a bloomy yellow rind from the Rhône Alpes and cousin to Saint Marcellin. It pairs with St Amour (Gamay Noir) or with almost any Pinot Noir. Take care not to confuse with another cheese called caillé doux from Saint Félicien Ardèche.

Saint Marcellin (IGP) is a soft creamy cow's cheese with a touch of barnyard, hazelnut and bitterness from the Isère South of Lyon. Pair with an Isère Chardonnay, Aligoté, or Altesse for whites or Isère Cabernet Sauvignon, Étraire de la Dui, Corbeau, Mècle, Servanin, or Gamay for reds.

Sainte Maure de Touraine (AOP) is a soft dough goat's cheese with hints of nut and a blueish rind from the Indre et Loire. Pair with Sancerre or Vouvray demi-sec (Chenin Blanc) for whites or Saumur (Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon) for reds.

Saint Nectaire (AOP) is a creamy, uncooked, pressed cow's cheese with hints of nut and a thick rind from Monts Dore in the Auvergne. Pair with Côtes d'Auvergne (Gamay Noir).

Saint Valentin is a soft goat's cheese with a bloomy rind that comes from the Isère south of Lyon. It pairs with Crémant de Die (Clairette Blanche, Aligoté, and Muscat).

Salers is uncooked, pressed cow's milk with a grey rind and comes from Salers town, Cantal, Auvergne Rhône Alpes. Pair with a Côtes d'Auvergne Chardonnay for whites or a Cantal (Gamay, Pinot Noir) for reds, a 2015 if you can as it was an exceptionally good wine year in the Cantal.

T

La Taupinière is a soft goat's cheese with a blue rind that looks like a brain and comes from the Poitou Charentes. Pairs well with a Poitou Charentes Chardonnay for the whites or a red Gamay or Pinot Noir from the same region.

Tête de Moine (AOP) is a cylindrical cooked and pressed yellow cow's cheese matured 4 to 6 months and with a thick brown rind. Pair with Côtes du Jura (Poulsard, Trousseau).

Tomme de Belloc, sometimes called Abbaye de Belloc, is a hard pressed ewe's cheese from the Midi Pyrénées. Pairs with the Midi Pyrénées wine Pacherenc du Vic Bilh (Arrufiat, Manseng grapes), or Madiran wine from the Hautes Pyrénées.

Tomme de Savoie (IGP) is an uncooked, pressed cow's cheese with herbaceous, nutty and fruity hints from the Rhône Alpes. Pair with a southern Rhône Gigondas (Grenache Noir, Syrah) or a Hermitage.

Tomme de Savoie

Tommette de Savoie paired with a 2016 Côtes du Rhône

Domaine de Servans Opulens

Tomme de Yenne is a soft, uncooked, pressed cow's cheese with a grey rind from the Rhône Alpes. Pair with Cornas (Syrah) wine from the northern Rhône.

V

Vacherin Mont D'Or (AOP) is a delightful runny soft cow's cheese from Jura. Pair with Côtes du Jura (Chardonnay, Savagnin), a Crémant du Jura goes particularly well.

Valençay (AOP) is a soft goats cheese from Valençay from the Indre department in Center Val de Loire. Pairs well with Sancerre.