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Sep 25, 2013 07:40 AM

Seasonal French cheese

It occurs to me that I have only the haziest knowledge of the seasonality of French cheese.

As fall is here, maybe we could have a conversation (or tutorial?) on what cheeses will be at their peak now and why.

And why stop there...

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  1. In general or only French cheeses ?

    I think cheeses like Mont d'Or and Vacherin are made from milk from cows that "migrated" down from their summer mountain residences (I think, and I'm know to be wrong).

    (in any cases, this will probably be moved to another thread)

    2 Replies
    1. re: Maximilien

      Thanks, Max. Have fixed.

      I was thinking that aging would be a determinant. i.e., when which cheeses came a point. But, if so, what and when...

      (But i'm much better known for being wrong at the top of my lungs than you. ;) )

      1. re: mangeur

        I think the more important point is when the milk was "harvested", either in the spring, summer, autumn or winter.

        The cheese will taste different, even with aging; probably that the more the aging the less the difference there will be.

    2. Where is DCM when you need him? or Souphie?

      1. For what's good "en ce moment" I often browse

        There's a cheese section by month (not always easy to find so I'm providing a separate link). French only. I've never found where to click to get to other months so I manually change the month (in French) in the address bar

        And next time you are in Paris, drop by the fromagerie Chez Virginie on the rue Damrémont in the 18th. There's always a list of fromages de saison + the delightful owner (who, I think, speaks very good English) always seems willing and able to discuss the whys and wherefores. Most other cheesemongers are probably just as able but less willing.

        9 Replies
        1. re: Parnassien

          I echo Parnassien's comment and would recommend finding a regular cheese shop that has enough pride in it's products to recommend what is best, in which is season and in their cellar (the finishing may be more critical than the season).

          Our local was Barthélemy who always gave us great advice and as regulars would often decline to sell us cheese that wasn't going to be at its best for a particular meal - the timing of maturation being critical. So make friends, and ask the experts.

          1. re: PhilD

            Smiling out loud...Indeed good advice and some we live by. Our two shops are Dubois at Maubert Mutualite and Ferme St. Hubert on Rochachouart.

            What I had more in mind was a kind of mental alarm clock that would chime and say "This is October. Let's hit Dubois and look for some...."

            I just thought that since we had several cheese experts on board we might pick their minds for some of their seasonal favorites.

            1. re: mangeur

              Just started going to Ferme St hubert, if only for his Maroilles, which is way better than any other ever encountered and always in perfect condition. l believe they own the ferme as the maroilles is named St Hubert.

              1. re: mangeur

                The best fromageries all give excellent advice but I must single out Chez Virginie for the thoroughness of her explanations and willingness to answer any question. At other cheesemongers, I sense a certain exasperation (although usually well disguised) if I ask too many questions or take too long to make up my mind.

                1. re: Parnassien

                  We have only done a walk-though at CV. She was, even then, warmly welcoming.

                  But we have also had over-the-top service at Dubois as well as at St. Hubert. SH is a little less used to tourists, perhaps a little shyer, but most certainly willing to go the distance with both information and recommendation.

                  1. re: mangeur

                    Maybe it's a matter of timing. I do get much friendlier service at the Laurent Dubois shop in the 15th but only manage to get to the place Maubert one on market days when it's very busy.

            2. re: Parnassien

              She generally has both cabriolet and p'tit fiance both from the same maker cabri ariegeois in the ariege. They are wonderful products, both similar to a goat vacherin and l have seen them at all times of the year.
              One of the advantages of hard cheeses is while they may be only made at certain times, they will be available at most times.
              Just saw a Gruyere de Alpages( Thanks to Parigi for introducing me to this one ) at G Lafayette and since Beillevaire no longer carries it ( have not seen there for 9 months) it is still around. This gruyere as the same notation from Beaufort means the pasturage is from the spring/summer when the cows can be in the pasture and do not eat hay, but fresh grass.
              Also now that many cheeses are thermalysed their season is also extended.
              The main ones that are still seasonal are things that age only briefly like Loire chevres, but even these are fiddled with so your St Maure will be creamier in the fall and far firmer in the spring as aged differently.
              Still Vacherin Mont d'Or, both Swiss and French still have a season on early Nov to late March.

              1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                DCM - would it be fair to say that few cheeses are genuinely seasonal I.e. only available in certain months. However, many cheeses are available all year but vary across the seasons and understanding how this seasonal variation impacts the flavour is something a connoisseur should aspire to?

                1. re: PhilD

                  IMVHO, very yes.
                  One of the former is Spanish, real, not factory, Idiazabal. Cheese is made in the late summer and fall, then stored in the family's chimney over the winter as with snows and made in Haut Pyrenees cannot get down the mountains.
                  Thus an excellent smoked cheese, factory ones suck, and are very boring.
                  Trouble is most product is getting commercial and the reasons the cheeses may be seasonal is avoided and thus made all year round.
                  Very fresh stuff and small fermier stuff can still be seasonal but as tomatoes and melons are available all year round so are cheeses.
                  As my cheese books are back in the States and Margaret wants specifics, here is a site that list many seasonal cheeses. l cannot attest to the accuracy, go to

            3. FWIW, I started this thread because of recommendations in my cheese book that say things like "best at end of summer", "spring to autumn", "all year" and "all year depending on affinage".

              Books are fine depending on their reliability, but I thought that our guys might have some favorites to share.