Terroir and Origin
Roquefort obtained the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) in 1925. It is made exclusively from whole, raw milk from Lacaune ewes, the only breed of ewe capable of withstanding the region’s extremes of climate.
Although the milk used to make Roquefort is collected in a specific mountains area from the south of France, the Aveyron departement and in some parts of five other départements (the Lozère, Tarn, Gard, Herault and Aude) ; the cheese itself is ripened in specific cellars in the village of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon included on the World Heritage List of UNESCO.
The village has enjoyed a privileged status since 1411 when Charles VI signed a charter which gave the villagers the sole right to produce and age Roquefort cheese. A decree of the Toulouse parliament dating from 1666 imposed heavy fines on merchants selling cheap imitations under the name Roquefort. The unique Roquefort caves were formed 200 million years ago by the collapse of the limestone plateau of Combalou. Stretching over a distance of only two kilometers, gigantic fissures created caves and faults which provide natural ventilation for the cellars that were chiseled out the rock.
Manufacturing Process and Expertise
The alchemy takes place in this frigid, temperature-controlled environment with a relative humidity of 95% at a temperature of 43 degree Fahrenheit. This atmosphere is necessary to allow the blue-green “penicillium roqueforti” mold culture, adding during renneting, to slowly mature.
The blocks of salted curd are pierced to encourage the growth of the mold, and are left uncovered in the caves. The cheese gradually develops blue-green veins, and its paste becomes creamy and flavorful.
Ripening is slowed by wrapping the cheese in thin sheets and leaving them to mature at low temperatures to enrich their flavor and texture.
As a general rule, the cheese is allowed to age for three months. However, the longer Roquefort is left to ripen, the more pronounced its flavor becomes. Once ripe, the cheeses are wrapped in aluminum foil bearing the seal of the association of ewe’s milk producers and Roquefort cheese makers which was formed in 1930.
Recipe: Marbled cheese spread
- 200g Roquefort
- 2 TBS of thick “crème fraîche”
- 1 small pot of Greek cheese
- A few dried raisins
- Black bread
Mash 200g of Roquefort with a fork, adding two tablespoons of thick cream, one small pot of fresh cheese, a few raisins and some pepper.
Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate. Spread onto thick slices of black bread (pumpernickel).
Usually, Roquefort is ideal with Sauternes, Barsac, Montbazillac, Bordeaux red or Côtes du Rhône wines. You can also consume Roquefort in salads or associated with many ingredients such as apples, pears and nuts.