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Stinky French Cheese: Our Top 8 and Where to Find Them in Paris

Best Pungent French Cheese and Cheese Shops in Paris

It was French President Charles de Gaulle who famously said, “How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?” That was in 1962. Today there are nearly 400 distinct cheeses in France, and discussing and eating them is a national pastime. Anyway you slice it, this is the land of fromage and it is a source of regional pride. Just like with wine, many varieties have their own AOC, or Appellation d’origine contrôlée. Roquefort only comes from Roquefort and it must adhere to strict regulations to earn the name. The types of cheese in France are as varied as the landscapes, and while it may seem like a love of pungent cheese is in the blood of the French, I believe it’s an acquired taste. Rather than going straight for the Brie on your next trip to Paris, push your palate by trying one of the following stinky cheeses and do as the French do: savor it after your meal, preferably with a digestif.

Best Pungent French Cheese and Cheese Shops in Paris

1. Langres

Made in the Champagne region, the cylinder shaped Langres has a concave top for holding a bit of the famed sparkling wine. Beneath the wrinkly rind you’ll find a dense and creamy cheese that is soft and slightly crumbly. The flavor is fresh and grassy at first, but rounds out with a nice smokiness. Langres needs five weeks of aging and is excellent between May and August (even cheese in France is seasonal). Pair with rosé champagne; the wine’s strawberry notes make for a great accompaniment to the smoky cheese.

Best Pungent French Cheese and Cheese Shops in Paris

2. Pont l’Évêque

Pont l’Évêque, a semi-hard cheese made with uncooked and unpressed cow’s milk, is one of the oldest cheeses in France and has been made in Normandy since the 12th century. It has a very pungent aroma due to its moist crust, but the cheese inside is creamy with a mild and earthy flavor. Pont L’Évêque has had its own AOC since 1976 and it can be enjoyed in the spring, summer, and fall. Pair it with regional Norman cider or calvados.

3. Trou du Cru

Ivory-yellow Trou du Cru comes from the Burgundy region of France and is made with pasteurized cow’s milk. The smooth, creamy fromage is complex with a nutty flavor and a sharp aftertaste. Made in small molded rounds, it matures more quickly then its relative, Époisses de Bourgogne. Each cheese is smear ripened, or washed individually with Marc de Bourgogne, a strong local brandy, so it smells a bit like alcohol and hay. Trou du Cru works well with the toasted and vanilla notes you find in a Bourgogne white wine like Meursault.

Best Pungent French Cheese and Cheese Shops in Paris

4. Époisses de Bourgogne

Napoléon was reportedly a fan of Époisses de Bourgogne, a soft cheese so smelly it’s been banned from some public transportation in France. The distinctive red-orange cheese is made in the village of Époisses, between Dijon and Auxerre. After nearly going extinct during the World Wars, it was resurrected by French farmers in the 1950s and Fromagerie Berthaut still manufactures nearly all Époisses. The unpasteurized cows milk cheese is smear ripened just like Trou du Cru, and it’s a bit chewy with a salty, sweet; and slightly spicy flavor. The strong cheese works better with a hearty beverage, like Trappist beer, than with wine.

5. Munster

French Munster is nothing like the mild American muenster cheese you may be familiar with. The strong tasting, semi-soft cheese comes from the Alsace town of Munster and is made mainly with milk from cows who graze in the Vosges Mountains. Left to age in a damp cellar for anywhere from five weeks to three months depending on the size, the odor is pungent (some compare it to sweaty feet) and the rind, which is periodically rinsed with brine, is quite tangy. The cheese itself has a savory and salty flavor that pairs well with Alsatian whites, like dry Riesling.

Best Pungent French Cheese and Cheese Shops in Paris

6. Roquefort

The King of French cheeses, Roquefort was the first recipient of an AOC in France in 1925, though it’s probably much, much older. Roquefort is mentioned in literature as far back as 79AD. The sheep’s milk blue cheese comes from the south of France, and to earn the name Roquefort, cheeses must be ripened in the natural caves of Mont Combalou in Roquefort-sur-Soulzon. Roquefort is tangy and crumbly with veins of green mold and is at once sweet, smoky, and salty. Roquefort packs a punch, and a full-bodied and well-balanced red like Bordeaux pairs nicely, but if you really want white, try a minerally Sancerre.

7. Maroilles

The aroma of Maroilles, a cow’s milk cheese from Northern France, is funky — it smells like a barnyard— but the flavor of the creamy cheese is a bit milder with a slight sweetness. Maroils was invented in the 10th century by a monk and was reportedly the favorite cheese of several French Kings, including Phillip II and Francis I. Pair this cheese with something sweet, like cider or late-harvest Gewürztraminer.

Best Pungent French Cheese and Cheese Shops in Paris

8. Vieux Lille

Vieux Lille is ripened Maroilles and is often called the most pungent cheese in France—its nickname is “old stinker.” The semi-soft cheese is soaked for three months in brine to give it a salty taste, and while the aroma is undoubtedly strong, I actually find the flavor to be more nuanced and well-balanced than Maroilles. It’s spicy and salty with a lingering nutty aftertaste. This cheese is more readily available during the winter months and it pairs well with red Burgundy or champagne.

Some great cheese shops in Paris are:

Barthélémy – 51 Rue de Grenelle, 75007. Tel: +33 (0)1 42 44 82 24

Fromagerie Chez Virginie – 54 Rue Damrémont, 75018. Tel: +33 (0)1 46 06 76 54

Fromagerie Jouannault – 39 Rue de Bretagne, 75003. Tel: +33 (0)1 42 78 52 61

Laurent Dubois – 47 Ter Blvd. Saint-Germain, 75005. Tel: +33 (0)1 43 54 50 93

Best Pungent French Cheese and Cheese Shops in Paris

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Written by Casey Hatfield-Chiotti for the HiP Paris Blog. All images by Casey Hatfield-Chiotti. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, London, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.

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Written by Casey Hatfield-Chiotti

Casey Hatfield-ChiottiCasey Chiotti is a food and travel writer who recently fulfilled a life long dream by moving to Paris. She has a unique talent for sniffing out bakeries like a bloodhound and is finding it both incredible and, at times, excruciating to be in the best bakery city in the world (she tries to practice some self control). She writes about a different pastry every Saturday as well as other recommendations for restaurants and hotels around the world on her website Travelproper.

Website: Travel Proper

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Posted in Food, Parisian Living | 4 Comments »

4 Responses to “Stinky French Cheese: Our Top 8 and Where to Find Them in Paris”

  • Darcy says:

    Thank you for this great article! After stumbling upon trou du cru during my visit, I loved it and couldn’t again find it at any other shop. Thanks to your recommendation, I found it again at Barthelemy for my last day in Paris. You were a lifesaver!

  • Thanks Catherine. I’ll try that one!

  • Yum! My faves aren’t the stinkiest either but I will eat pretty much any cheese 🙂

  • Catherine says:

    Love the article! My all-time favorite cheese isn’t that stinky, but it’s great: Abbaye Citeaux. One of the first things I do when I get to Paris is to saunter down to the Marche at St. Germain, head to the fromagier and make the purchase when its available! It’s REALLY good!

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