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Your Guide to French Cheeses

Taking the cake for most Michelin stars awarded by country, France is a land of gastronomy. From artisan pastries to world-class wine, no visitor to France will return home hungry or thirsty. And when it comes to French cheeses, this country’s traditions run deep. Although the term “French cheese” may seem homogenous, any French person will tell you otherwise. Each region of France is known for its special types of cheeses. From regional specialities to how they’re made, we’re explaining all about French cheeses for our foodie travelers.

Your Guide to French Cheeses

French Cheese Consumption

Americans may typically think of cheese as a snack or part of a meal. For the French, it’s also served as part of a meal but is also often served at the end of the meal. In 2020, the average French person consumed 27.4 kilograms, or more than 60 pounds, according to Statista. That same year, Americans only consumed approximately 40 pounds per person. The bottom line: the French take cheese very seriously. It also plays a major part in the economy: the French spent more than 8.5 billion euros on cheese in 2021, per Statista.

Types of French Cheese

french goat's milk cheeses in bordeaux, chabichou

There are three main types of French cheeses depending on the milk with which it’s made: vâche (cow), brebis (sheep) and chèvre (goat). There are also multiple families of cheeses related to how they’re made. According to the French Ministry of Agriculture, there are soft-rind cheeses, blue cheeses, pressed cheeses and beyond.

French Cheeses by Region

Just as each part of the world has its local specialities, each region of France has its cheeses. Raclette, reblochon and comté are several types of cheese hailing from the region of Rhône-Alpes. In Burgundy, you’ll discover their Brillat-Savarin, which was named after Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. According to the Cheeses of France, this 18th century foodie said, “A meal without cheese is like a beautiful woman with only one eye.” 

And in Alsace-Lorraine, you can taste some of its Muenster cheese. The popular Camembert cheese finds its roots in Normandy. And although many know of brie cheese, there isn’t just one type: Brie de Meaux originates from the eastern Paris basin and Brie de Melun from the department of Seine-et-Marne.

Reading French Cheese Labels

As you’re browsing the cheese aisles, you might stumble across some very important letters: AOP or AOC. Recognized across Europe, AOP stands for Appellation d’Origine Protégée, or Protected Designation of Origin in English. In layman’s terms, this means that if the cheese is labeled as AOP that it is a verified local product made in that area of France. If it’s labeled AOC, that means it has been verified by French authorities; if it’s labeled AOP, it has been checked by French and European authorities, per AOP’s website.

Tasting French Cheeses for Yourself

roquefort cheese

Perhaps all this information has you craving apéro with the best French cheeses. Or maybe you’re itching to learn more about the rich heritage of French cheeses. At French Side Travel, we help foodies plan the perfect vacation to France. If you’re looking to taste exquisite French cheeses and understand more about these regional specialities, we have a wide range of experiences and tours suited for you.

Alsace Wine Route Tour

The region of Alsace isn’t just known for its pretzels and Christmas markets; it also has an exquisite wine heritage. You’ll spend the day with our guide driving around this gorgeous region and discover the village of Colmar, Alsace’s wine capital. Later, you’ll explore the medieval village of Eguisheim. Your tour will also include a private visit of an Alsatian wine cellar. You’ll savor local wines and cheese as you admire this lovely region.

Wine and Cheese Pairing Workshop in Bordeaux

Ossau-Iraty or Chabichou du Poitou? Roquefort or Rocamadour? Deciphering different French cheeses can be complicated, so let our experts guide you. We’ll set up a private wine and cheese pairing workshop with an oenology expert. Even better, you’ll discover these French classes in the beautiful city of Bordeaux with its rich ties to the wine industry.

cheese wine pairing

Wine and Cheese Pairing in Lyon

You may know Paris as the capital of France, but Lyon is the country’s gastronomic capital. So come hungry! Local cheesemaker Antoine and wine merchant Quentin will take you on a delicious journey in this private workshop. Not only will you taste delightful French cheeses and wines, but you’ll also learn about the region’s history and culture.

Wine and Cheese Apéro Along the Rhône

Take our word for it: wine and cheese taste better on a boat. You’ll enjoy an apéro on a boat with tastes of wines from Crozes-Hermitage, Saint-Joseph, and Hermitage domains. You’ll also enjoy some goat cheese and local pâté caillette as you cruise down the Rhône River.

Where to Stay in France

Les Haras
Stay in a piece of history with a visit to four-star hotel Les Haras in Strasbourg. The building dates back to the 1700s when it was known as the Strasbourg National Studs. Architects Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku played off the property’s history with horses as they transformed it into a hotel. Stay in one of Les Haras’ 115 rooms and suites with their modern style and wooden touches. Book a table at the Brasserie and nosh on regional specialities. With each room reservation, an hour of spa access is included per night booked. 

Les Sources de Caudalie
Tucked south of Bordeaux, les Sources de Caudalie is a five-star palace hotel located in the Château Smith Haut Lafitte vineyards. Escape from the city center with a stay in one of these 61 rooms and suites in Martillac. You can’t miss a visit to its Vinothérapie Spa where you can enjoy a Crushed Cabernet scrub. Not only will you drink well, but you’ll also dine well at its Michelin-starred restaurant La Grand’Vigne.

InterContinental Lyon
After a full day of exploring France’s gastronomy capital, rest your head at the InterContinental in Lyon. This five-star hotel boasts regal decor in an 18th century building. Whether you fancy a drink at its bar Le Dôme or a three-course menu at its restaurant Epona, you will not be disappointed. 

Once you discover the world of French cheeses, you won’t look back. Be inspired by some of our top gastronomic tours: Exclusive Private Culinary Tour of Paris and Luxury Gourmet & Cultural Trip From Lyon to Beautiful Provence. We’re ready to help you plan a trip suited for foodies.

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Corsica: France’s Under the Radar Island Paradise

Located off the coast of mainland France is the stunning island of Corsica. The island has a unique culture, history, and gastronomy, and truly has its own identity along with French and Italian influences. Known as the Island of Beauty, landscapes from impressive mountains and perched villages to quaint beaches are truly astounding. Read on to discover Corsica, France’s under the radar island paradise.

Corsica: France’s Under the Radar Island Paradise

How to Get to Corsica

bonifacio in corsica

Corsica is located just off mainland France. With airports in the cities of Bastia, Ajaccio, Calvi, and Porto-Vecchio, Corsica can be reached in under two hours from many major cities in France and throughout Western Europe. Alternatively, Corsica can also be reached by ferry. Regular ferries depart from Nice, Toulon and Marseille as well as from Sardinia and mainland Italy.

When to Visit Corsica

when to visit corsica

The best months to visit Corsica are from May through the end of September. Temperatures are warm but not too hot in May, June and September, making these months ideal for rigorous outdoor activities, like hiking the mythical G20 trail. July and August are the hottest months in Corsica, and are ideal for enjoying the stunning beaches. French Side Travel recommends visiting Corsica in September, as travelers benefit from mild temperatures, warm water, and less crowds. It’s best to avoid visiting Corsica in the winter as many accommodations close and the mountain passes can be snowy.

What to Do in Corsica

corsica private boat

There is something for everyone in Corsica. It’s easy to see why Corsica is truly an island paradise in France.

One of the best ways to experience the Island of Beauty is with a private catamaran cruise. Groups of family and friends as well as couples looking for a perfect romantic moment will enjoy discovering Corsica from the water. Stop in picturesque hidden coves where guests can swim, snorkel, paddle board, or simply soak up the sun.

Corsica is known for fabulous hiking. Your expert guide will lead you along the Sentier des Douaniers path, past the old Genoese tower and the impressive rocks overhanging the blue sea. A perfect relaxing and easy walk for those who want to soak up the pure sea breeze and marvel at the beautiful scenery.

Adventure seekers will be thrilled with a panoramic helicopter flight over Corsica. Choose between a flight over the sea, over the mountains, or a combination of the two. Flying over the sea will afford views of Bonifacio and its white limestone cliffs and the wild coast. Those who prefer mountains will discover a waterfall, perched villages, a Moorish tower and of course the gigantic and splendid granite mountain peaks. A sea and mountain combination flight brings together the best of both worlds.

A true highlight is spending a day discovering traditional Corsican gastronomy and wines. In the vineyards of the Ajaccio Protected Appellation, visit wineries and taste the unique wines of the region. The owners will tell you about their passion for winemaking, the Corsican vines, and will share a few secrets. A memorable lunch will be served in a traditional inn in the heart of the vineyards. Afterwards, visit Sartène to enjoy the atmosphere of the old Genoese town and its many gourmet and artisanal shops.

Where to Stay in Corsica

Corsica is home to fabulous unique, authentic, and luxurious hotels. Read on to discover a few of French Side Travel’s favorite hotels in Corsica.

Hôtel La Villa Calvi in Calvi
hotel la villa calvi

Hôtel La Villa Calvi

This luxurious 5-star hotel is located above Calvi, which gives it a superb view of both the bay and the city.

The hotel has five swimming pools, including an elegant 25-meter swimming lane, surrounded by a large swimming pool to which the black stone gives a unique look. A children’s pool is also available on the site. Surrounded by the Pool Bar, it dominates the bay of Calvi. A swimming pool is located at La Nouvelle Demeure, with a unique view of the citadel. Another one is in front of the villas. Finally, the three Private Villas each have their pool.

The hotel features two restaurants and a bar. Experience the Mediterranean flavors in harmony with the location, which reveals the riches of southern gastronomy at the restaurants. Make the most of the bar which offers a simple and cozy atmosphere.

Let yourself be pampered with the best spa services that offer absolute well-being experiences.

A Piattatella in Monticello
A Piattatella in Monticello

A Piattatella

Immerse yourself in a world of luxury and refinement at this 5-star hotel. Located in the middle of gardens overlooking the Reginu valley, the hotel welcomes you warmly. The staff will provide exceptional and professional service throughout your stay.

The decor is a mix of neutral shades and noble materials, a concept designed for all beauty lovers in search of an exclusive retreat. You will find three categories of rooms: Comfort, Superior, and Luxury. All rooms include a private terrace overlooking the valley, the lake, and the mountains.

The hotel offers a range of treatments, including Swedish massages, Thai reflexology, and beauty treatments. Guests can also relax in the massage chair, the sauna, or the library equipped with local books and games.

The hotel has its own restaurant, which serves gourmet cuisine prepared with products from its own garden.

Ideally located, the hotel is a 10-minute drive from the beaches of Balagne and a few steps from the village square of Monticello. You can also take a relaxing walk in the nearby lakes and mountains and enjoy a serene day in the middle of nature.

Version Maquis Citadelle in Bonifacio
version maquis citadelle

Version Maquis Citadelle

Located just a stone’s throw from the bustling port of Bonifacio, this 5-star hotel is nestled in the heart of the luxuriant vegetation of the Corsican maquis. This exceptional recently renovated property perfectly blends luxury and intimacy. It is a confidential address like few others, a small oasis of exclusivity in the heart of Corsica.

With only 22 rooms and one villa, the hotel is far from a big impersonal resorts. Wood, stone and marble blend harmoniously to create an elegant and welcoming atmosphere. Rooms with a view of the maquis and the Citadel of Bonifacio, an infinity pool, a spa, a gastronomic menu combining creativity and simplicity… all of the elements are there for you to enjoy an unforgettable stay.

Domaine de Murtoli in Sartène
domaine de murtoli

Domaine de Murtoli

An ultimate destination in southernmost Corsica, this 5-star hotel is split into different buildings, including shepherd’s houses and landlord mansions dating back to the 17th-century.

The stone houses are beautifully simplistic and authentic, with private heated pools, fireplaces, and comforts like televisions, air conditioning, and fully equipped kitchens. All the villas and houses provide quick access to the large beach of the hotel. There is also an outdoor space and with a summer kitchen, a heated swimming pool carved in rock, and a dining-lounge area.

The hotel offers four different restaurants each with its own unique menu and ambiance. Made mostly with local products from the hotel’s farms and the nearby sea, the dishes are a splendid mix of wonderful flavors, all seasoned with the scents of regional maquis herbs.

With a golf course, a seaside beach, spa, horseback riding, excursions, fishing, and more, the hotel offers plenty of leisure activities to keep guests entertained.

Miramar Beach Hotel in Propriano
miramar beach hotel corsica

Miramar Beach Hotel

Perfectly located between Ajaccio and Bonifacio in the region of Propriano-Sartene-Campomoro, this 5-star hotel , surrounded by a two-acre garden, is only minutes away from the unspoiled sandy beaches and crystal clear waters of Southern Corsica, charming villages, and fishing harbors.

The hotel is reassuringly cozy with simple and well appointed Mediterranean decor: whitewashed walls, arched ceilings, Italian terracotta tiles making your stay here more like a holiday in a private villa. The hotel also offers breathtaking sunset views of one of the most beautiful bays on the island.

Guests can unwind under the pines at the heated pool, soak up the sun on the deck lounge with views of the coastline or get adventurous. The hotel offers a plethora of activities such as boat and jet ski excursions, paddle board yoga, sailing, horseback riding and scuba diving.

Nestled in the greenery with a breathtaking view, the restaurant is a must-see for those who want an exceptional experience. Sardinian and Sicilian chefs offer authentic and gourmet Italian cuisine.

Corsica, France’s under the radar island paradise, begs exploration. Contact an expert travel advisor to get started planning your perfect trip to the Island of Beauty. French Side Travel has something for everyone whether you’re interested in food and wine, history and culture, adventure, or romance and scenery.

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The 2023 Grape Harvest in France

It’s an exciting time of year for grape growers and wine lovers alike as the vendanges, the period of grape harvesting, has officially begun. Each year is slightly different depending on the region, mother nature, and the grapes themselves. Typically the vendanges begin in late August and can last through October. Read on to learn more about the process, how to take part, and how to celebrate the 2023 grape harvest in France.

The 2023 Grape Harvest in France

When is the Harvest in France this Year?

2023 grape harvest in france

Each prefecture must lift the ban on grape harvesting (lever le ban des vendanges) before picking begins. This date is typically about 100 days after the vine flowers. Ultimately, the harvesting date depends on the grapes. Wine growers monitor levels of sugar and acidity as well as the amount of tannins, especially for red wines.

Vendanges typically begin in late August in southern parts of France like Corsica and Provence and can last through October. Severe frosts make the date later and heatwaves make it earlier. Harvesting typically lasts for about 15 days, depending on the size of the vineyard.

Bordeaux entered the harvest period on August 16th with crémant, which makes up 1% of their production. Next, they’ll start harvesting grapes for white wines. The first grapes for red wines in Bordeaux will follow likely in mid-September. At the end of September the bulk of grapes for red wines will be harvested. In Burgundy, the harvest period will begin at the end of August in the Jura region. The Champagne harvest period is expected during the first ten days of September.

Where to Stay During the Grape Harvests in Burgundy
hostellerie cedre beaune

Hostellerie Cèdre & Spa

This 5-star hotel, located in the center of Beaune, is an ideal base for exploring the cultural and oenological heritage of Burgundy. It perfectly reflects the French art of living,

The luxury hotel offers 40 rooms and suites decorated with a beautiful blend of tradition and modernity which give you an ancient and contemporary feel. The suites have a unique bathroom with a walk-in shower and separate toilets.

The restaurant is a well-known gastronomic address. is the perfect setting for a beautiful gourmet experience steeped in the French tradition with creative and carefully crafted recipes. The menu, which honors local producers, evolves with the seasons and will allow you to discover the secrets of local gastronomy.

The wellness area is the ideal place to relax and recharge your batteries in the private Jacuzzi and the warmth of the hammam.

How Grapes are Harvested in France

2023 grape harvest in france vendanges

Grapes are largely harvested by hand. Some regions like Champagne even require it. This means bringing in some extra help – about 300,000 people in order to cover the approximately 750,000 hectares (1.9 million acres) of vineyards in France. It’s a seasonal job open to anyone older than 16 and is popular among students.

In some cases, machines harvest the grapes. Machines increase productivity and can harvest about 200 times more grapes per day than a person. They also run day and night, no matter the weather conditions. However, machines are less accurate and can sometimes damage the delicate grapes. Machines also require sorting to remove any grapes with undesirable qualities.

Participating in French Grape Harvests

participating in french grape harvests

Visiting the cellars during the vendanges can be complicated. Many wineries close for tours although some independent wineries welcome visitors. In 2023, Domaine Besancenot near Beaune is offering a visit of the winery with an explanation of the harvesting process. The visit includes a tasting of five wines paired with gougères. Be sure to contact French Side Travel for assistance with a reservation in advance.

Celebrating the Grape Harvest in France

vendanges 2023 in france

There are many different harvest festivals throughout France. One of the first is the Festivini Festival of Food and Wine in the Loire Valley. Perhaps the most well-known is the Montmartre Grape Harvest Festival in Paris from October 11th through 15th. More than 40 bars and restaurants take part in the four day event which includes activities like concerts, entertainment, tastings of regional and local products, dances, walks, special exhibits and more.

Where to Stay During the Grape Harvest in Champagne
chateau de sacy

Château de Sacy

Experience a beautiful stay in a spacious, luxurious and comfortable Château, opening onto the vineyards on all sides. Elegance and modernity come together in an atmosphere conducive to both relaxation and fun.

You’ll have a pleasurable stay in the elegant and modern rooms surrounded by beautiful vineyards with a splendid view of the mountains of Reims. Dining in the authentic restaurant with a delicate cuisine and 360 degree view of the vineyards will be a lovely memory and a unique experience.

The spa offers exceptional services, and quality and excellence are the spa’s motto. Discover your inner-self with yoga and fitness classes in the middle of the vines, surrounded by a scenic image of Reims.

For those who love sports and culture, there are numerous activities in the area including golf, opera, and more. Visit and be one with the nature.

Whether you can experience the 2023 grape harvest in France in person or not, it’s an exciting time for wine lovers. The French wine regions are diverse and worth exploring whenever you have the chance. Some of our favorite tours include A Road trip through Bordeaux and Dordogne’s Nature and Wine Country, The Best of Beaujolais, Burgundy, and Champagne Vineyards, and A Luxury Escape to Burgundy’s Vineyards. French Side Travel has something for everyone whether you’re interested in food and wine, history and culture, adventure, or romance and scenery.

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