Auvergne Puy de Dome

Following the Auvergne Cheese Route: Tips for French Cheese Lovers

In our journey in pursuance of the flavors of the Mediterranean gastronomy, we can’t help making a stop in France: this small French cheeses guide will take you  in one of the most wonderful lands of the world: Auvergne.

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In our journey in pursuance of the flavors of the Mediterranean gastronomy excellence and the places they hail from, we can’t help making a stop in France: this small French cheeses guide will take you  in one of the most wonderful lands of the world, discovering tastes and places less known among the huge French cheese varieties. For this reason, we decided to start from a less popular region: Auvergne. A region with a lush nature, forests, mountains, lakes and volcanoes... In the ninth book of the "Naturalis Historia", Pliny the Elder already mentions "the cheeses of Arvesnes and Gevaudan which are very popular in Rome". 

Visiting Auvergne can be an interesting travel tip for those who love outdoor excursions.

Auvergne, Land of AOP Cheeses and Vulcanoes

lake Auvergne

Before starting our cheese trail, we can't forget to say that the highlights of this journey will definitely be the "Puys", the peaks of the mountains and volcanoes of the Massif central in the southern part of the region. And it's from these mountains that most of Auvergne's cheeses hail. 

If you visit Auvergne in spring or summer we recommend you to make the excursion in the Park of the Volcanoes. The Puys chain offers a unique panorama with its 80 volcanoes. Do not miss the Puy de Dome, an ancient extinct volcano, the highest point of the area (4806ft). In ancient times it was considered a sacred mountain, which housed the temple of Mercury. Today, it is also known for being one of the famous mountain stages of the Tour de France, the world famous cycling race. The top can be reached by a panoramic train or by footpaths.

From the Puy de Dome you can see Clermont-Ferrand, the city, homeland of the Michelin, was born from the union of two cities: Clermont and Monferrand. Don’t miss the lava stone Gothic cathedral, and the statue of Vercingetorix in the Place de Jaude, built by Bartholdi, sculptor of the Statue of Liberty.

If you decide to take a trip to this region, you may be interested in reconciling the Auvergne food and wine tours with cultural initiatives. In August you can have a look at the Aurillac International Street Theater Festival.

Auvergne Cheese AOP Route

auvergne AOP cheese map

Now we can start our special cheese lover journey: Auvergne is the French richest region of AOP cheeses. The AOP cheeses route (AOP is the French equivalent for DOP) is a journey through the excellent dairy products of this land, 35 stops that bring the visitor to know the territory and the best 5 AOP cheeses of the region.

Cantal Cheese

One of the oldest and most appreciated French cheeses. Cantal is a rustic cheese, as the nature from which it is obtained: the mountains of Auvergne, shaped by the winds of the Central Massif. A cheese made from cow's milk, traditionally with a long seasoning period, from May to September. The Cantal production has been marking the rhythms of life of the region inhabitants for centuries. There are three types of Cantal depending on the seasonings: jeune, vieux and entre-deux. The first is to be preferred if you like cheeses with a sweet and milky flavor (minimum aging 30 days). 

Cantal pairs well with red fruits, grapes, apples, walnuts - and with light and fruity red wines, such as Beaujolais.
The famous "truffade" is made of coarsely crushed potatoes with lard and young Cantal or a similar mountain cheese.

Saint-Nectaire Cheese

This small cheese obtained from the pastures of Mont-Dore and Cézallier, a volcanic region with rich and varied vegetation, was created by women in fact, they used they used the milk of the cows left in the valley when the men left for the pastures with the rest of the flock.  then, it was made famous by Louis XIV through Marshal Henri de la Ferté-Senneterre (1600-1681). This cheese is made from cow's milk, and as for many French cheeses, it is the period of maturation that makes the difference. In the cheese production chain, the cheesemaker gives the cheese to the “Affinueur” the one who takes care of aging, following traditions transmitted from generation to generation. 

Fourme-d’Ambert

One of our favorites, the sweetest among Blue cheeses, an elegant and creamy cheese, already known in pre-Roman times. A delicacy hailing from the jasserie (stone construction for cheese making, in the picture below) of the Forez mountains. A strong, yet delicate, blue cheese that during the eighteenth century was used as a bargaining chip for the rent of the pastures. The Fourme d'Abert is a product of excellence, with a more accessible taste than other blue cheeses, precisely because of its delicate flavor. 

The Fourme d'Ambert pairs well with the wines of its land (Côtes-d'Auvergne or Forez) but above all with white wines, such as the Coteau-du-layon.
It can be use in various recipes, such as the pear pie with Fourme d'Ambert, the duck filet with honey or the Fourme d'Ambert pie with onions and lard.

To buy Fourme d'Ambert visit Sensibus online grocery!

stone construction for cheese making in auvergne

Bleu d’Auvergne

It's clear that Auvergne blue cheeses deserve a special mention in our flavor journey. The volcanoes region offers us this fantastic cheese, with an aromatic and generous taste. A blue cheese with a more pronounced flavor than Fourme d'Ambert, with undergrowth notes and the aroma of fresh mushrooms. It is a cheese with a recent history compared to the others we have seen so far, born in fact around the middle of the nineteenth century. The Bleu d'Auvergne goes well with red wins such as Bondes or Cahors.
It is an ingredient of several delicious dishes: Bleu d'Auvergne mousse with walnuts, cauliflower and broccoli with Bleu or Auvergne.

Salers

This is a millennial cheese whose production has influenced the life of the shepherds for centuries. The Salers is a semi-hard cheese made from raw and whole cow's milk coming from farms located in the pastures that surround the volcanic massifs of Auvergne. Apparently very similar to Cantal, it has a unique aroma that returns the diversity and richness of the pastures on which the cows graze. Flavor of grass, cut hay, walnuts with milky notes.

Puits D'Astier 

It is not a DOP cheese but it is one of the most typical cheeses of this region: Puits D'astier is a French cheese renowned for its original donut shape and delicious taste. It is a relatively young and little known cheese. Instead of being aged in wood it is aged on straw, in natural caves for two or three months. This sheep cheese has a multicolor rind. Under this layer lies a smooth and supple paste that reveals fennel notes and a cream finish. 

A tip for Gourmets!

For those who love to combine cheeses and chocolate, we recommend to go to the town of Moulins, in the north of Auvergne, to visit the old chocolate shop le Palet D'Or, practically a chocolate boutique, whose typical product is precisely the Palet d'Or, a coffee-flavored chocolate, garnished with golden straws.

Image: ​Fourme d'Ambert by Yasuo Kida CC 2.0 | Jasserie by Anthospace