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The 7 Basic Cheese Families

From Alsace to Normandy, Brittany to the Pyrenees, from Provence to Corsica, each part of France has delicious products. In France, every cheese reveals a terroir. Behind every cheese is a dairy tradition. In addition, behind every cheese family is a special process. The cheese-making technique, the weight, the shape, and finally, the maturation where its flavour is perfected, all depend on the particular quality of the milk and expertise.

No matter how much you love cheese, it's difficult to know them all. Read on get to know your cheese a little better!


Firstly, let's answer the question "What is cheese?". Cheese is a fermented product produced by coagulating certain milk proteins (caseins). Cheese can be fresh or matured, more or less rich in fat. A smooth Camembert, a strong Pont-l’Évêque, a tender Saint-Nectaire, a fruity Beaufort… There’s a cheese to suit everyone’s tastes and the food and cooking habits of different continents!


1200 varieties of cheese and seven families

There is a wide variety of cheeses. This is due to the different cultural practices of the people who make them. But it can also be explained by the many different types of milk there are (cow's, ewe's, goat’s, buffalo’s - there are lots of dairy breeds). Finally, the production technology used, and whether the milk is raw or pasteurised, means that there is a variety of around ten families. Between authentic cheeses with a strong character that is enjoyed every day, to fondue or spreadable cheese, there are many ways to navigate through this vast family.

The vast quantity of cheeses can be classified according to their technical information, taste, texture, shape, type of milk, etc. Here we have chosen to present you with seven families which reflect new consumption methods.


"Authentic" Cheeses

Brie, Munster, Cantal, Comté, Saint-Nectaire, Camembert, Roquefort

These cheeses have a strong character. Brie, Munster, Cantal, Comté, Saint-Nectaire, Camembert, Roquefort… These cheeses are all synonymous with flavour, authenticity, heritage, expertise, culture, nature, quality, conviviality, sharing, adaptability and practicality. Authentic AOPs often trumpet their regional identity. These cheeses feted by gourmets and connoisseurs of all ages are associated with other top quality products. They are easy to find at cheese shops, on regional markets and in supermarkets. Tasting is best done on platters at the end of a meal, as nibbles or as snacks.


"Blue" Cheeses

Blue Cheese

Blue cheese has a very strong character, targeted at men. Roquefort, Bresse bleu, Bleu de Termignon, Bleu des Causses, Fourme d’Ambert… With the exception of Roquefort, blue cheese is the preserve of aficionados. Classic platter cheeses are also used in cooking (for example in sauces) and sometimes in salads. They can be bought in specialist shops, supermarkets or cooperatives based in the producing region.


“Cheeses Used Daily and For Cooking”

Grated Emmental, Raclette, Mimolette, Comté

This type of cheese includes hard cheeses that are practical, simple, and have a neutral taste.

Grated Emmental, Raclette, Mimolette, Comté…These industrially produced cheeses are made using technology rather than more artisanal methods. Everyone regularly eats “day-to-day” or “cooking” cheeses – they are easily found in large quantities in French fridges. They are used as ingredients, cooking aids, and to add a touch of creaminess. These “easy” cheeses are used in hot or cold classic dishes, as snacks and as nibbles.


“Fresh and Spreadable” Cheeses

Fresh Cheese

Fresh and Spreadable cheeses are fresh and aromatic, are associated with pleasure. Plain fresh cheese, herb-flavoured cheese, etc. These are favoured by young, city-dwelling women and younger shoppers who buy them from supermarkets. They are easily spreadable and work well in sandwiches, salads, light sauces, gratins, tarts and so on.


“Goat and Ewe” Cheeses

Goat Cheese

These cheeses are light and mild. Bûche, Sainte-Maure de Touraine, Selles-sur-cher, Crottin, Fresh goat’s cheese…These hugely varied cheeses are very practical and goat’s cheese comes in small sizes. Some are coated in ash, while others are flavoured or wrapped in leaves. Blues can be produced both industrially and artisanally, and of all the cheeses they best symbolise terroirs’ individual characters. They can be bought in cheese shops, on regional markets or right in the farms where they are made, but they are also available in all French supermarkets. They can be eaten as nibbles, with apéritifs or as part of a light meal, and they are also used in creative cuisine as they can be easily paired in many different ways.


“Traditional” Cheeses

Camembert, Comté, oval cheeses, sliced Emmental, Reblochon, Basque ewe’s milk cheese

"Traditional" cheeses are functional, simple and classic. Camembert, Comté, oval cheeses, sliced Emmental, Reblochon, Basque ewe’s milk cheese…These affordable cheeses are readily found in fridges throughout France. They are eaten on platters or in sandwiches on a daily basis. They are enjoyed by the whole family. They are also regional icons and symbols of French identity.


“Processed” Cheeses

Processed cheese

Individually portioned cheeses and “cocktail cheeses”… Children love the “fun” proportions of these cheeses, but adults are just as keen! These cheeses are typically found in supermarkets. They are used in mini portions as amuses-bouche but their creamy quality makes them useful in cooking too.


Selected by De La Valley, our Cheese platters are unique for anyone who loves Artisanal French Cheese. Have a look at our selection of cheese handpicked by our Gastronomy Conseiller and enjoy the full joy of the cheese tasting experience!