Whether you’re looking to discover the enchanting chateaux and aristocratic estates cycling in the Loire Valley, or wandering through the bustling market town of Forcalquier on our Highlights of Provence trip, you’re bound to encounter historic brasseries and charming vineyards all selling a fantastic selection of French local produce.
No trip to France would be complete without sampling the country’s excellent wine and cheeses, and no one knows how to pair them quite like our French guide, Isabelle. Get truly acquainted with French gastronomy with her top 5 recommendations to wine and cheese pairings. Whether you’re new to pairing, or you’re a master of oenology (the study of wines), you’re sure to learn something new that will help you on your next culinary experience in France.
1. Reblochon cheese
Bringing joy to the French bourgeoisie and farmers alike since the 13th century, Reblochon is a semi-soft, washed velvety rind and smear-ripened mountain cheese that originated from the heart of the Massif des Aravis, in the Thônes region of Haute-Savoie in France. Lightly pressed and uncooked, the Reblochon cheese is made from full cream unpasteurised milk.
Usually brought out at fondue parties during the wintertime, it can also be enjoyed in the summer with a smoky but floral Roussette de Savoie-Marestel. The mild, fruity notes and intense nutty aftertaste make this cheese a must-try when you’re travelling through France.
The perfect match would be a crisp, fresh white wine such as:
Roussette de Savoie-Marestel (cépage altesse)
Chignin-Bergeron (cépage roussanne)
Vin de Savoie Ayse (Cépage gringet)
If you’re looking to indulge at home, we’d recommend slicing a whole Reblochon cheese lengthwise, to make a tartiflette. Fry up some onions and lardons (diced bacon) in oil and then place them into an ovenproof dish, adding thin slices of parboiled potatoes, crème fraîche, and a slosh of dry white wine. Tower slices of Reblochon cheese on top and bake it in the oven for about 40 minutes at 180°C, for the perfect little mid-week treat. Or why not take your taste buds to new heights, and try this local dish from Savoy in the Alps on our Mont Blanc to Matterhorn trip.
2. Banon cheese
Made in the bustling little market-town of Banon, just north of Aix in southern France, Banon is a soft unpasteurised cheese made from goat’s milk. Renowned for their prized local delicacy, Banon cheesemakers wrap this small, round, pungent goat’s cheese in chestnut leaves and neatly tie them with raffia.
Isabelle who is our local leader on our Highlights of Provence trip recommends the cheese factory shop of Banon, one hour away from Greoux-Les-Bains. She usually buys Banon cheese at the beautiful and bustling Forcalquier market to share with travellers on her trips.
The woodsy and fruit flavour tends to go with both dry white and red wines, so Isabelle would recommend pairing Banon cheese with:
Côtes du Rhône Blanc
Côtes de Provence Rouge
Châteauneuf du Pape Rouge
White Maures wine
Camembert was originally produced from the village of Camembert in Normandy in the 18th century, although nowadays it’s a cheesy delicacy that you can find all over the world. However, the best Camembert is undoubtedly, the one you get directly from the source. Unpasteurised and extremely buttery, Camembert de Normandie is perfect with Normandy’s fantastic selection of apple ciders or a light-bodied Gamay from Beaujolais. Roasted in the oven, stuffed with garlic cloves and sprinkled rosemary on the top, is the best way to enjoy this cheese!
When it comes to pairing, Isabelle says to try light-bodied reds with that are dark ruby red and have profound aromas of ripe black fruits or hints of cherry, such as:
Gamay from Beaujolais
Pinot noir de Bourgogne
Pinot noir d’Alsace
Saint Nectaire, the semisoft, slightly woody washed rind cheese was said to be one of King Louis XIV’s favourite cheeses. Known for collecting the best paintings and eating only the finest French cuisine, it’s safe to say the Saint-Nectaire cheese got the royal stamp of approval.
Made from the milk of Salers cattle that graze on rich, volcanic pastures, it was first created by female farmers in the Cantal region of France in the 17th century. Isabelle said, “Its nutty, earthy taste makes a perfect pairing with fresh black olives, salami, French baguettes and a light, aromatic local red”, such as:
Côtes d’Auvergne Châteaugay red, that you can taste on our Cotes Du Ventoux Self-Guided Cycling trip
Saint Pourçain red
Or a more “classic” choice of Saint Emilion would make the perfect pairing too
Comté cheese made from unpasteurised cow’s milk has impressed locals since the middle ages. With the perfect combination of fruity and savory notes, the sweet and salty undertones of this cheese produced in the Massif du Jura Comté taste just like roasted hazelnuts and caramelised butter – and it only gets better with age. The older it gets, the saltier and nuttier it becomes. Isabelle recommends trying the cheese with toasted figs or apricot butter to really bring out the flavour.
Isabelle says that the best wine to drink while eating Comté is local Jura yellow wines and well-rounded white wines like:
Côtes de Jura
Back in 1411, this cheese was so popular, the law got involved. The French parliament issued a decree that only cheese produced by cheesemakers in the Roquefort region, were allowed to call their cheese Roquefort. Today, this flavourful ewe’s milk blue cheese is still protected by the appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC). If Roquefort is worth changing the laws over, then it’s definitely one worth tasting it in the place they were first created.
The picturesque village of Roquefort-Sur-Soulzon located in the Aveyron region is a must-visit. Traditionally aged in limestone caves, Roquefort has an exquisitely strong, sweet-caramel smell, yet sharp, tangy, salty in flavour and easily crumbles. Isabelle claims that the soft white wines of southwest France make a great pairing such as:
Gaillac vendanges tardives
Sainte Croix du Mont
If Isabelle’s cheese and wine pairings have inspired you to go on a gastronomic adventure in France, you can find out more information about our trips here.