Whether you’re looking to ride between the vineyards of the Cotes-du-Rhone and Ventoux appellations or explore the quaint medieval towns in Normandy, 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 local French expert guides. So, prepare to get truly acquainted with French gastronomy as we’ve asked them to recommend their top 5 recommendations for 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.
On our Provence trips, you can try this cheese for yourself in the cheese factory shop of Banon, located one hour away from Greoux-Les-Bains. Or you can pick up Banon cheese at the beautiful and bustling Forcalquier market. This big weekly market can be found in Place du Bourguet, Place Martial Sicard and Place Saint-Michel. It runs between 8am-12:30pm, and boasts over 200 different booths selling delicious regional produce.
The woodsy and fruit flavour tends to go with both dry white and red wines, so we 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 in Normandie. 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 one of the best ways to enjoy this cheese!
You’ll have the opportunity to enjoy this on our Cycle Northern France: Brittany to Normandy trip, where you can try it in the medieval town of Bayeux, or unwind with a glass of wine and freshly made Camembert at a café overlooking the River Rance in Dinan. When it comes to pairing, we’d recommend that you try it with light-bodied reds 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 savoury 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.
Another great way of trying Comté cheese is by having fondue, a local speciality of the Haute-Savoie region, in Chamonix during our Tour du Mont Blanc Hotel Trek. Traditionally served communal style with long forks and croutons of crusty bread for dipping, this delicious boiling pot of Comté cheese, garlic cloves and white wine is the perfect way to soak in the cosy alpine atmosphere.
The best wines to drink while eating Comté is local Jura yellow wines and well-rounded white wines like:
Côtes de Jura
If our 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.