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"Comment voulez-vous gouverner un pays qui a deux cents quarante-six variétés de fromage?"―Charles de Gaulle
(Translation: How do you govern a nation that has 246 varieties of cheese?)

"Un repas sans fromage comme un journée sans soleil."―French proverb
(Translation: Any meal without cheese in it is like a day without the sun in it.)

The above quotes reflect how deeply ensconced cheese is in the lives of Frenchmen. Fromage, as the people there call it, is a very deep part of their daily lives. Though the quote by Charles de Gaulle indicates that there were 246 varieties of cheeses in France in his time, today, a lot more varieties are included in the list. Throughout its evolution, the French society, both rural and urban, have created and perfected several varieties of this velvety smooth dairy product.

Here's a list of some of the most popular French cheeses available worldwide and a basic description about them.

Beaufort

Original ingredient: Cow's milk
Region of origin: Savoy
Color: Pale yellow
Taste: Sharp, tangy
Texture: Hard, easy to cut
Best accompaniment: White wine and salmon
Other points: This cheese is quite similar to holed cheeses like Gruyère, Comte, and the Swiss Emmental in its taste. It is a favorite choice for fondue recipes.

Blue d'Auvergne

Original ingredient: Unpasteurized cow's milk
Region of origin: Auvergne
Color: Dark cream with blue markings, brown rind
Taste: Pungent, but buttery
Best accompaniment: Sweet and strong wines, in salads and pastas
Other points: Due to its taste, this cheese is more popular in foreign markets than the other French blue cheeses.

Camembert

Original ingredient: Unpasteurized cow's milk
Region of origin: Normandy
Color: A dry, white rind with a creamy yellow interior
Taste: A milky, melting flavor that lingers in the mouth; external ingredients like cadaverine, citrulline, or orthinine may be added to give a somewhat bitter, highlighting taste
Texture: Soft, creamy, and supple
Best accompaniment: Can be used in many French preparations which do not require much heating. It is also used as a spread.
Other points: Its taste depreciates drastically when heated. It is similar to Brie cheese in taste.

Comté

Original ingredient: Unpasteurized cow's milk, specifically the Montbéliard cows
Region of origin: Franche-Comté
Color: Dusty brown exterior rind, yellowish interior
Taste: Less salty, rather sweet, and feels a bit nutty
Texture: Can be classified as semihard to hard
Best accompaniment: With any item from the French cuisine and wines
Other points: This is the most popular cheese produced in France and is produced with high-grade fermenting techniques.

Neufchâtel

Original ingredient: Unpasteurized cow's milk
Region of origin: Normandy
Color: A dry white rind with a yellower interior
Taste: A subtle creamy taste that is saltier and sharper than that of Camembert
Texture: Soft and smooth to feel, but has a grainy texture
Best accompaniment: Used in French cooking and eaten raw with bread, as well
Other points: If you find cheese sold in the shape of a heart, it must be Neufchâtel. The American Newcastle cheese is very different from its authentic French version. Hence, if you want the true taste, insist on the French Neufchâtel.

Roquefort

Original ingredient: Ewe's milk
Region of origin: Roquefort
Color: White with blue markings
Taste: Begins with a subtle creamy taste, then gets smoky, and finally ends with a salty finish. The blue areas are sharper in taste.
Texture: Semihard
Best accompaniment: Wine and vegetable dishes
Other points: This cheese is known as the King of Cheeses due to its assortment of tastes. It is very popular and produced in large amounts in France.

Tomme des Pyrenees

Original ingredient: Can be milk of either cows, goats, or ewes
Region of origin: Mid Pyrenees and Aquitaine
Color: Deep yellow with orange tinge and may show a black skin
Taste: Creamy, slightly salty
Texture: Hard, requires a cheese cutter or a sharp knife for cutting
Best accompaniment: Wine
Other points: This cheese is sometimes marketed as the Cheese of the Pyrenees. Even today, it is made using traditional methods.

Tomme de Savoie

Original ingredient: Cow's milk
Region of origin: Savoy
Color: Grayish-brown on the exterior, creamy in the interior
Taste: Mild salty, creamy
Texture: Softer than most Tommes
Best accompaniment: As a spread for bread or toast
Other points: This cheese is low-fat, and that's one of the reasons for its popularity in foreign countries. It is also notable for its thick rind.

Valençay

Original ingredient: Goat's milk
Region of origin: Berry
Color: Bluish-gray
Taste: A sour taste when fresh, turning nutty as the cheese matures
Texture: Pliable with a hard exterior
Best accompaniments: Its pliability makes it work as a spread on bread and toast. It is also a good accompaniment with the traditional wine of Valençay.
Other points: This cheese is quite recognizable due to its pyramidal shape with a flattened top. Also, it's a seasonal cheese with no production in the months of January and February.