Five of a kind: French cheeses

Delice du Poitou.
Delice du Poitou. Photo: Eddie Jim

Delice du Poitou

This is a lovely oval puck of goat's cheese coated in a fine layer of ash, itself cloaked in a layer of white mould. It is made by Poitou-Chevre, a family affair founded in 1897 in the town of La Mothe Saint Heray in the west of France. The rind has a powerful and pleasant aroma of goat and under it the pate ripens to pale white cream encasing the firmer centre. In the mouth the animal aroma gives way to tropical fruit. This is a very pleasing cheese made from milk collected just a few months ago in the French spring. Try this cheese with perhaps some champagne or even a little glass of Pouilly-Fume.
150g, $15-$18 each. Stockists include French Fantasies, South Yarra; Kitchen & Butcher, Healesville; Stocked, Hawksburn Village.

Langres Petite

This beautiful apricot-hued cheese is never turned, so an indentation forms on the top, just deep enough to hold a little champagne, which some allow to permeate the rind by pricking it. Many prefer drinking the champagne, its bready aromas matching the sweet yeastiness of this cow's milk cheese from the high plateaus of Champagne-Ardenne. When ripe, Langres' viscous, creamy interior breaks down into sticky, creamy ropes that cling to the knife. The rind is coated in a layer of Brevi linens, a bacteria that breaks down the protein, giving a high aroma and meaty flavour, which also makes it a good companion to gamey pinot noir.
180g, about $20 each. Stockists include Mulberrys, Castlemaine; the Cheese Cave, Toorak; Rathdowne Village Delicatessen, Carlton North.

Fleur d'Aunis

During the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church decreed so many days of fasting that hard-working monks developed a flesh-free protein source: washed-rind cheese. Washing the rind encourages Brevi linens to break down the proteins to make rich-tasting amino acids. Fleur d'Aunis, a cow's milk cheese from near La Rochelle on the Atlantic, comes from this tradition. The rind is washed not only with salted water but also Pineau des Charentes, a cognac-fortified aperitif. Inside the deep-apricot rind is a firm cream-coloured flesh pocked with little eyes. It is sweet, nutty and meaty, with aromas of drying hay and dry roses. Try it with pinot gris or a dark beer.
About $65 a kilogram. Stockists include Milk the Cow, St Kilda; Richmond Hill Cafe and Larder, Richmond; Leo's, Kew.

Langres petite.
Langres petite. Photo: Eddie Jim

Grand Cantal

Imagine a cheddar that doesn't crumble, with a centre that looks like a hard cheese yet feels smooth and soft in the mouth. It has the same clean acidity as cheddar without the lip-tingling tang. It is made with cow's milk that is curdled and pressed several times to expel the whey. Cantal, named after the Cantal department in the region of Auvergne, is usually aged for about six months, but this cheese, chosen by affineur Herve Mons, has been aged for 12 months. It has a sweet nuttiness interwoven with some aromas that suggest an old cellar, with hints of sweet vanilla. Not bad for a cheese first mentioned by the Romans in the first century AD. Try with Beaujolais.
About $70 a kilogram. Stockists include La Parisienne Pates, Carlton; Leo's, Hartwell.

Bleu des Causses

This is a blue cheese made in Languedoc in southern France. It is very well salted, but not aggressively so, and the peppery tingle one gets from eating blue cheese is not as pronounced. It is called ''poor man's Roquefort'' and is made from cow's milk, not sheep's, inoculated with the Roqueforti mould and aged in limestone caves. There they pick up other native microflora that add to the flavour. Large eyes form and the interior of these become lined with grey-green mould that gives the cheese its funky blue characteristics. Delicious served on its own, used in dishes such as broccoli and blue cheese or served with toasted fruit bread drizzled with honey.
About $70 a kilogram. Stockists include Newham General Store, Newham; Leo's, Hartwell; Emerald Hill Deli, South Melbourne market.