While French cuisine is known to contain a long list of delicious cheeses, including well-known varieties such as Camembert and Munster, today we will be highlighting one of most famous soft cheeses anywhere in the world—Brie! Commonly referred to as the “King/Queen of Cheeses,” mostly due to its immense popularity with French royalty and its rich history in France, Brie derives its name from the northern region of France with the same name, even though this region has since been split into three separate regions and renamed. A pale yellow cheese with a white rind that is just as delicious as the middle of the cheese itself, Brie is known to have multiple varieties, ranging in flavor depending on where it comes from and the ingredients used to produce it.
Flavor and Nutrition
Before diving into the different varieties of Brie and good wine pairings, we should discuss the basic flavor profile and nutritional aspects of cheese.
First, the Brie that is typically consumed in the United States is different from the Brie that is consumed throughout Europe, primarily because the United States uses pasteurized milk for Brie, while most European countries use unpasteurized milk for their cheese. Despite this, Brie is typically made with whole or semi-skimmed cow’s milk, which helps produce a cheese that has a sweet and nutty flavor, as well as a buttery and creamy texture. Along with this, Brie cheese is actually meant to be eaten with the rind included, delivering a unique combination of textures, as well as a slight tangy flavor to balance out the sweetness. Overall, while Brie’s flavor and texture produce a delicious soft cheese, as far as soft cheeses go, the smell and flavor are not too overpowering, which makes it a good soft cheese to begin with during cheese tasting.
Second, the nutritional qualities of Brie cheese also make it a great snack or ingredient for a recipe. While cheese is well-known to be an amazing source of calcium and various minerals, Brie specifically is known to be a great source of protein, as well as vitamin B12 and B2.
Before we discuss the different varieties of Brie cheese you might come across, it’s important to explain what it means for a cheese to have an “AOC” certification in France, especially since Brie is a cheese that originates in France. Like wine, cheese is considered to have terroir, which refers to the regional character a product has based on environmental factors, farming practices, and other specific characteristics. Based on this concept of terroir, the French government awards certain products the label of “appellation d’origine contrôlée” (AOC), which gives the product a guarantee of its specific terroir characteristics.
With this in mind, there are two varieties of Brie that have the AOC certification, this includes Brie de Meaux and Brie de Melun. While both of these types of Brie received this certification in 1980 and are made with unpasteurized milk, they each have their own unique history and flavor. Known to be made in the town of Meaux since the 8th century, Brie de Meaux is the bigger size out of these two, and is typically the one that is considered to have given Brie its nickname of the “King/Queen of Cheeses.” On the other hand, you will find that Brie de Melun typically has a stronger smell and taste.
Even though Brie de Meaux and Brie de Melun are the only French Brie that have the AOC certification, there also exists multiple other varieties. Some of the most common other French varieties include Brie de Montereau, Brie de Provins, Brie de Melun bleu, and Brie noir.
Other than French Brie, there are also some types of Brie that are produced all around the world, which includes regions such as Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Brazil.
Based on the flavor and texture, a classic red wine pairing for Brie is a Pinot Noir, specifically because the low tannin level and subtle sweetness of a Pinot Noir will help bring out the flavor of the cheese without overwhelming it. Along with the Pinot Noir, another good pairing that is typically less common for Brie is a white Port. Although Ports tend to have incredibly strong and sweet fruit flavors, the white Port, with an aroma of apples and raisins, as well as a particularly smooth sweetness, works well with the Brie cheese, especially for dessert.
Brie, Brie, and More Brie!
Here at Left Bank we love Brie. As a classic French soft cheese, we include Brie in dishes such as our Fondue Aux Fromages. Since there is an incredible amount of recipes that utilize Brie, we encourage all of our readers to find what they like best. Even if you do not find a recipe that you like with Brie, it is also one of the best soft cheeses to eat with bread and crackers as a simple snack, especially with a glass of wine.
Come stop by Left Bank today and see how much we love Brie!