Imagine a cheese that has been mentioned first by Pliny the Elder, the Roman historian of the first century that is, as “a cheese of Gaul” almost 2000 years ago. Imagine further a cheese that was accepted as a natural tax by certain abbeys in the 11th century already, a cheese that was protected by the French kings from the 15th century on with treaties, privileges and contracts. Imagine a blue cheese so tasty that you hardly need any other – and you have the one and only
Like the Camembert de Normandie, it has become a French national symbol. You might have heard of José Bové, a Roquefort producer who demolished the construction site of a McDonald’s branch quite a while ago in order to protest against globalization as well as fast and other industrial food that the French call malbouffe. Yet in fact, Bové’s actions weren’t needed to boost the celebrity of Roquefort that had been called “the king of cheese” and “the cheese of kings and popes” long before. It was the first cheese to be protected by an Appellation d’origine contrôlée coming into effect on July 26, 1925. And today, they even have a nice website.
It’s a cheese made of the pure, raw, full-fat milk of Lacaune sheep, the most widely used breed in the French cheese production. An entire piece of Roquefort is as big as, say, a good loaf of bread, it’s a large wheel with a diameter of 20 or so centimetres, it’s roughly 10 centimetres thick and weighs 2.5 to 2.9 kilograms per piece. Every Roquefort has to mature in the natural limestone caves of the Combalou plain in Southern France in the department of Aveyron. And every Roquefort has to be a blue cheese, of course, with the good fungus penicillium roqueforti doing the trick. There’s a handful producers you’ll find at good cheese shops like Société, Carles or Gabriel Coulet.
In any case it’s a strong, no-nonsense cheese and I admit that it’s my personal favourite. I eat it with a knife right off the cheese board with baguette, and I eat by far too much of it. Some people think nut bread was obligatory as a companion but I don’t think so. The texture of this cheese is absolutely unique (and divine). Yes, it contains 52 percent of fat – but try it: it’s a light, gayful bite, no smear at all, no idea of fat, it’s all turned into taste and style.
One other thing is for sure: you basically can’t drink red wine with a Roquefort unless it’s quite a sweet Banyuls or so. White wines are the better option, a Jurançon would be nice with a Roquefort, a Sauternes maybe even better. The British, by the way, drink Port wine with their blue cheeses and that’s not a bad idea for a Roquefort either. It lacks a bit of elegance, I’d say. But it works.
Here’s a video about Roquefort village and the cheese makers there.