The Protected Cheeses of France
No one does Cheese like the French, it is a deep gastronomic history that has traditional roots in every corner of the country. Almost every single region produces their own kind of cheese, yet some are more prominent than others.
In fact France is so passionate that the country produces an insurmountable amount of cheese, with so much going on, there had to be some sort of legislation and protection.
The History of Protected Cheese
It initially seemed like a daunting task for France to protect the production and authentication of Cheese in a country with over 1,600 varieties. Their passion knows no bounds however, and France created the ‘Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée’ (AOC). Translating to ‘controlled designation of origin’, this was France’s method of authenticating the production, legitimacy and tradition of Cheese. This isn’t exclusive to just cheese however, there’s a plethora of products from France that also adhere to AOC. This extends to wine, butter, lentils, apples, honey and much more. There are other official designations that help protect established cheeses in the European union:
PDO - Protected Designation of Origin. In order to receive this status the product has to be traditionally produced and manufactured in the region it has originated from. Even if you had all the ingredients and made it somewhere else, it wouldn’t be classified as the same cheese.
PGI - Protected Geographical Indication. For a cheese to receive this status the product must be traditionally and at least partially manufactured and produced within the specific region. This means Cheeses with PGI can be found outside of their region.
TSG - Traditional Speciality Guaranteed. If a cheese is to receive this status it must be a food of ‘specific character’ that differentiates it from all others in its category. Its raw materials, production and processing must have been done ‘traditionally’ with consistency for a minimum of 30 years.
This system was created in the 19th century, initially for wine. It wasn’t until 1925 that the first cheese was awarded an AOC label, the Roquefort, a blue cheese from the south of France. This cheese is also stored in certain caves where a specific bacteria envelops the cheese, boosting its flavour. Although this cheese could be produced across the south of France, only cheese that were ripened in the natural caves of Mont Combalou in Roquefort-sur-Soulzon were permitted to bear the name Roquefort.
Since then, over 40 cheeses have been assigned AOC status. There’s a heavy inspection of the cheese and its production to ensure it follows the strict guidelines. If you’re someone who is buying Cheese, there’s no greater confirmation of authenticity than an AOC label.
The label is so integral because it keeps these cheeses connected to France’s traditional gastronomic and cultural heritage. The consumer knows that the cheese was produced in a traditional method that has a history linked to a specific place and people.
There are other European countries such as Italy and Spain that have their own version of the French AOC.
Gourmet de Paris respects the AOC/AOP regulations and adheres to it. We source many quality cheeses with their own certified AOC status. If you’re as fanatical about cheese as we are, you can purchase quality cheese amongst other gastronomic goodies on the Gourmet de Paris website.