Cheese University (XII): Neufchâtel


In the year of the Lord 1035, the French nobleman Hugues de Gournay, a later follower of William the Conqueror, allowed a cheese to be used as a natural tax in the Bray valley in northern Normandy. It is by far the most ancient cheese of the region thrice blessed with so many products of excellence, and it was mentioned in documents of the Saint-Amand abbey of Rouen in 1543 as the grand fourmage de Neufchâtel, “the great cheese from Neufchâtel“. That’s what it is until today, a great cheese coming in a multitude of forms, call it by its proud name


There’s a cylinder-shaped version (bonde) and a square one (carré), a brick-style variety (briquette) but the most popular nowadays is the coeur, the heart of Neufchâtel. It’s a great cheese combining a robust, salty aroma with an amazing elegance and lightness in texture. It’s like biting a cloud, believe me, there’s an airy feeling about it and yet it’s a cheese containing at least 45 grams of fat per 100 grams of cheese. How is that possible? Ask the French farmers, and they will talk about 1000 years of tradition and savoir-faire.

The pieces show a rind of dry, snow-white mould, the French Cheese issue of Eyewitness Companions calls it “velvety” and that is exactly true. The noble product, made of cow’s milk (preferably raw) obtained an AOC in 1969 already, after a period of decline. The cheese, a real favourite during the 19th century, had its lows at the beginning of the 20th. But then the farmers and producers came back, refocused and lifted the cheese up to where it belongs. Some 1300 tons are delivered every year, 26 farm-house producers are on duty and there’s a large industrial production, too. In France, you can find it in most supermarkets…

Like almost any cheese, the Neufchâtel is best with just a piece of fresh bread. A glass of Beaujolais makes a good companion, I’d say. The video attached contains some nice footage about its production.

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