A Dictionary of French Cheese Terms


This French word is used to refer to the maturation of cheeses. There are three main stages: young (or fresh) cheeses, semi-mature cheeses and aged cheeses (ones which have reached optimal maturity). It goes without saying that each of these stages takes place at different intervals of time, depending on the type and size of the cheese in question.

Farm, Dairy Cheeses

Farm cheese: these cheeses are made on an artisanal basis. They’re based on unpasteurised milk obtained from one herd only and are made at the producer’s farm.

Dairy cheese: a cheese made from milk from several different herds and produced by a farming cooperative or a company.


The Latin word forma gave rise to the word formaticum, literally ‘that which is made in a mould’. This gave rise to the Medieval French word formage, which then became fromage, the modern French word for cheese. Certain regional cheeses are known as fourmes, while the Italian world formaggio shares the same origins too.

Heat-Treated Milk

Milk heated to a temperature between 40°C and 72°C for at least 15 seconds.

Raw Milk

Milk that isn’t heated beyond 40°C.

Pasteurised Milk

Milk heated to a temperature of at least 72°C for 15 seconds.

Pâte (style)

Everything that appears within the rind of the cheese, it could be: hard cheeses, cooked cheeses, soft cheeses, creamy cheeses and blue cheeses.


All cheeses have a rind. When it comes to soft cheeses, the following classification can be used:

Natural rind: a rind that hasn’t been washed and has no mould.

Rinds with mould: cheeses whose rinds develop a downy layer of Penicillin-type mould.

Washed rind: as the cheese ages, it is washed a number of times in salty water or with wine or another kind of alcohol. This produces a spongy, damp rind as well as aromas, which are often quite pronounced.


This uniquely French term is used for both wines and cheeses, as well as other agricultural produce. It’s a term that encompasses the geology of any given region, but can also be used to refer to a given area of agricultural production, or even the specific conditions pertaining to the sum total conditions which affect any one producer or region. Terroir determines the taste and typicity of a particular agricultural product, and is linked to the notion of Protected Designation of Origin (PDO).


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