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French cheesemonger named world’s best

French national pride was given a timely boost this weekend when the title for the World's Best Cheesemonger was won by a Frenchman on home soil.

French cheesemonger named world's best
Cheese. The French love it and they are knowledgeable about it too. Photo: AFP

France don't come out on top in many global competitions these days, but if there's one area you would bet your money on them succeeding in, it's cheese.

And so it was on Sunday when a Frenchman was named the world's best cheesemonger at a competition in France, maintaining national pride in a country famed for its love of fromage.

Fabien Degoulet, the son of dairy merchants, triumphed over a dozen leading candidates from around the world to capture the title at the International Best Cheesemonger Competition, organisers said.

Degoulet, 31, lives in Japan and came to the northwestern  French city of Tours to battle it out against rivals hailing from the United States, Belgium, China and Israel.

An international jury of professionals picked the champion cheesemonger based on tests of theoretical knowledge, taste pairing, cutting and cheese presentation.

For their piece de resistance, the contestants created a one square metre (yard) cheese tray on the theme of the “Art of cheese”.

Second place went to Guillaume Cardinet, a Frenchman, with Belgian Nathalie Vanhaver taking third place.

Last year a Briton named Matt Feroze made news across the world when he beat off his Gallic rivals to be crowned France's Best Cheesemonger.

SEE ALSO: Women help 'sex up' French cheese

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CHEESE

Why is everyone in France talking about Mont d’Or cheese today?

Mont d’Or cheese is a French treasure you can only find at a specific time of the year. But why's that?

Why is everyone in France talking about Mont d’Or cheese today?
A Mont d'Or cheese. Photo: AFP

Today is the day!

September 10th marks the beginning of the sale of the famous Mont d’Or cheese in France.

This rich cheese with a rich history borrows its name from the highest point of the Doubs département (located in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region in Eastern France) and goes way back since it was already mentioned in the 1280 Encyclopédie des Fromages (the Cheese Encyclopeadia).  

 

You can also find it under the name Vacherin, but rather in Switzerland than in its original region.

Though it is much loved, the Mont d’Or cheese is also much awaited as it can only be savoured from September 10th to May. Here’s why.

A seasonal cheese

The Mont d’Or was first created after peasants looked to create a smaller cheese with their “winter milk”, as the production was reduced during the coldest months. A raw milk that, according to the Fromagerie La Ferté, gives it a “texture that offers a soft and creamy consistency without being too runny”.

It can only be produced from August 15th to March 31st, hence why its appearances in dairies are seasonal.

Consequently, it became a winter cheese and could not be produced in the summer since it can’t handle hot temperatures. During spring and summer, where milk is more abundant, Comté cheese is made. 

READ ALSO: This is how much the French are obsessed with cheese

Specific production process

But other than being unobtainable during the sunny months, its making process also follows a list of specifications since it has both the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée and the Appelation d’Origine Protégée.

These designations attest to the authenticity of the product and of the savoir-faire of its producers while protecting its name not only in France but in the entire European Union.

The Mont d’Or can then only be produced in a designated area of 95 Haut-Doubs municipalities – all at least 700 metres above sea level – and made at of raw milk from grass-fed Montbeliarde or French Simmental herds.

A woman cutting the spruce straps that circle the Mont d'Or cheese. Photo: AFP

The cheese is also supported by a circle of spruce wood to provide it from running. After at least a 12-day maturing (during which the cheese is scrubbed daily with salted water), the Mont d’Or terminates its ripening process in a slightly smaller spruce box that gives it its wrinkled crust as a nod to the mountain it took its name from.

But these many specificities do not prevent producers from delivering (on average) 5,500 tonnes of Mont d’Or each year.

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