What I'll call Country Brie
I was in the Morvan region of Paris (near Bourgogne) at a very rural restaurant. We had some wine, bread and a selection of Cheese. The selections that were brought out were all very tasty looking but there was an unpleasant smell (to me and my wife) so we stayed away from the smellier looking cheeses. Surprisingly it turned out to be the Brie. I mentioned to the proprietor that it was a surprise to me and she understood and mentioned that this was the true brie... Certainly an interesting experience that I thought I'd share. I love the mild creamy bries we have here in the States but it would take some getting used to if the "country brie" was the standard.
Anyone else know what I'm talking about?
I'm fairly new to French cheeses myself, but what I can tell you from my experience so far is that the smell does NOT represent the taste. One of the stinkiest cheeses we've had so far has been one of our favorites, we just won't eat the rind of the extra stinky ones :)
In the States, you mostly find pasteurized brie, which is why it tastes so different (in France you only find it in supermarkets).
True bries are made of raw cow milk and have a soft body. I say "bries" because there are many types of bries. I took an introduction to cheese course in a cooking school in Paris (all about cheese, in the are Brie de Maux (big wheel, 12 inches), and Brie de Melun (smaller, 8 inche,s and a bit thicker). Other types are brie de Coulonmiers, and ...
Brie should not smell that much, though, and I am surprised you had such an experience.
There are many smellier cheeses, such as the Epoises, from Burgogne, or the Munster, from Alsace. My guess is that the one you were proposed was too ripe! The ones we tasted from the "Afineur de fromage shop" (no word in English for "afineur", the person who ages the cheeses) were simply delicious.
I agree. I would not call Brie a "stinky" cheese in any of its forms that I know. Souphie will come along and tell me if I'm wrong..... Époisses is the definitive stinky cheese, but well ripened Münster and Camembert are pretty pungent, as well. Brie, otoh, is much milder. The texture of raw milk brie properly aged, will be different than what we're accustomed to in US, tho.
Well, old enough brie can be stinky, with an unpleasant ammoniac smell. Don't eat it if it's green and otherwise just take the skin off. It can become runny, and that's quite all right. Btw, those days, good chefs and cheese guys open young bries, stuff them with shaved truffles and forget about them for a few days. Yum, yum. But Brie definitely will never be smelly the way Munster of Epoisses can be. Indeed Brie cheeses actually taste fairly different and can be eaten at very different "ages".
In my opinion, though, focusing on the names of cheeses is a mistake (with the obvious exceptions of industrial productions) because cheeses are living things, whose change, smell and apperance change everyday. I can't quote a single cheese that I always like -- it has to be more specific in terms of their maturity, season, etc. I find to yound Epoisses for instance really not good, even if it can be, in good conditions, my favourite cheese.
I am afraid France is not the bucolic idyl that we would all like it to be. Like any other country there are unscrupulous people who will pass off cheese that's past it's best. As Souphie says Brie shouldn't really smell that much, and when it does it is quite a "fresh smell". If it has a ammonia element to the smell or taste it has gone past its best and is going off.
My worst cheese "mistake" was to buy a selection from a shop on the Ile St Louis one Sunday, we consumed half with dinner and it was great. Next day we came downstairs and it was wriggling - overnight it had become a seething mass of maggots. I guess we had extra protein with dinner that night...!
Brie de meaux is a wheel of @18 inches in diameter, generally mild, Coulommier is a disc of about 8 inches and is a bit thicker and generally mild. Brie de Melun, on the other hand is very thin, about 12-14 inches in diameter and can really reek if you are lucky. Never had the nasty one out of the region, but while strong does not have the 'barnyard' or 'fecal' sniff of Epoisses or Ami d' Chambertin or others