French Goat Cheese From The Loire Valley (Visit To A Local Farm)

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Sins of Visiting France: Too Much Goat Cheese. What was I thinking?

The three varieties of Crottin de Chavignol: (R to L) sec, demi-sec, frais. The “frais” or “fresh” is the mildest, while the “sec” or “dry” and older, has a stronger flavor.

It’s probably no big secret that French goat cheese, specifically the Loire Valley‘s famous Crottin de Chavignol,  is different than the goat cheese here at home.

The road from Sancerre to Chavignol

Those delicate little rounds of loveliness with their subtle yet somewhat nutty flavor, seem to be available at every turn in France. Spread the tangy stuff on a baguette, or served warm in a salad, then consumed with a glass of Sancerre wine (yes, I’m a Sancerrean wine snob today, in yet another futile effort to hold onto any vestiges of Frenchiness that remain after returning home from French immersion lessons two weeks ago) is a quintessential French experience.

Translation: Goat Cheese Farm

Methodically hand made by farmers using loved goats and regulated processes that have been passed down from generation to generation, most goat cheeses don’t travel well, either in your suitcase or by formal exportation. As is the case with Crottin de Chavignol, sadly its two to the three-week production process, from milking the goat to being sold to the consumer, definitely makes exporting practically impossible.

Can you really imagine these Crottins de Chavignol all shrink-wrapped? Not really. *Heavy Sigh*

So what’s your average goat cheese loving Travel Belle to do?

Answer: Consume as much of it while she is in France as she can.

Follow up answer: This time, since I was staying near high heaven of goat cheese production, Chavignol, I may have taken this theory to an undesirable extreme. I confess I was so tired of goat cheese several days ahead of my return home, that I thought I couldn’t eat another bite. Maybe it was because I was sick with a cold. Or maybe I had just plain eaten too much.

Whatever it was, I was far from ready to ignore goat cheese completely. I could still look at goat cheese. I could still smell goat cheese (well, kind of, with the cold)…

… And I could still go visit the goats.

The 400 goats at this goat cheese farm are milked twice daily at 6 am and 6 pm.
The goats made a lot of noise while they were eating. Still, some of them stopped when we got there and seemed very glad to see us. Or maybe it was because it was 6 pm and time to be milked.

… And learn a little history:

The process of making goat cheese was probably brought to France in the 8th century by the Saracens, inhabitants of the desert around Syria. The goat cheese was first formed into “crottins,” or those adorable little discs we know today, in the 16th century. There are over 100 varieties of goat cheese in France, the majority of which are produced along the fertile banks of the Loire Valley.

Since 1976 Crottin de Chavignol has been regulated by the French A.O.C. (Appellation d’origine contrôlée– or as I prefer to think of it: amazing, optimized cheese.) A.O.C. labeling on French products indicates they were produced using a high level and traditional standards that were put in place in order to preserve quality and production methods.

These newly made goat cheeses are hand-turned at set intervals for several days

These days the goats are milked by machine. My French teacher, Marianne from Couer de France Language School, told us that we were each required to have a turn at milking a goat. I pretended I didn’t understand her and left the building “coughing.”

It must be 6pm in Chavignol

So was I so tired of eating goat cheese by this point that I really resisted eating a little more?

Not a chance. Although now, two weeks later, I’m completely over my goat cheese saturation issues and regret not eating a lot more. I wish I could drive to the Piggly Wiggly right now and buy a dozen or so crottins. I’d make a fabulous warm goat cheese salad instead of an okay warm one. I have no regrets however about not milking a goat.

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About the author

Margo Millure lives in Richmond, Virginia. She is a portrait photographer, writer and founder of Travel Belles. Learn more about her at www.MargoMillure.com.

17 thoughts on “French Goat Cheese From The Loire Valley (Visit To A Local Farm)”

  1. Margo… there is something seriously wrong with this post and I feel compelled to make a correction. There is no such thing as too much goats cheese! 🙂 I can’t resist an aged chevre. Nothing compares to the taste and texture.

    Like you, I wouldn’t milk a goat either!

  2. Yeah “inhabitants of the dessert” – aren’t we all inhabitants of some kind of food ?

    Well, more seriously, the pictures are great as is your love-song on goat-cheese ! I remember some trips where we would buy our goat-cheese along the road, where it looked very shabby (I mean very !) and no hygienic norms seemed to exist, so we were even a bit afraid and suspicious, but the goat-cheese was fabulous (I mean un-forget-table !).

    Inhabitant of the “fromage de chèvre” 😉

  3. ah… one of those typos that is quite telling, yes? Stand corrected, but I still kind of like that… “inhabitants of the dessert”. Signed, a fellow inhabitant of the “fromage de chèvre”

  4. I LOVE this post!! Goat cheese is one of my most favorite things in the whole wide world. I can only imagine how delicious it is fresh as can be. 🙂

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  6. I was laughing while reading this as I went through a similar cheese saturation experience in Tuscany recently with sheep cheese (pecorino). We went crazy at a market and bought huge chunks of different varieties and after a few days I felt like I was sweating pecorino! I can completely see doing the same thing as you in France.

  7. Great story Margo, and wonderful photographs — makes me long for a taste of goat cheese! (And I wonder if you ever saw the scene in the movie French Kiss with Meg Ryan after she consumes too much cheese on the train ride with Kevin Kline? ;-0)

  8. Such a nice post! Cracking up over here about you “coughing” & skipping out on the milking! I’m with you on that one too 🙂 Didn’t know the history of goat cheese in France, great to learn a little bit while reading about your fun adventure- tried some fresh goat cheese on our last trip to Italy, & I’m hooked as well. It is hard to know when to say no 🙂

  9. Hi Krista, Goat cheese > definitely worth the frequent flier miles 🙂

    Hi Audrey, I know! It’s kind of a form of torture to have great food in front of you and not be hungry!

    Hi Amanda, Thanks! I do remember that scene – I definitely can relate!

    Hi Mayor love, so nice to see you here! Milkshakes plus goat cheese = exactly how I felt about the whole food scene for a few days there. WEIRD.

  10. Like you, I tend to overdo it when I find something I love and goat cheese would certainly be at the top of my list!

    Have you tried goat cheese breaded and fried or baked? That’s my new obsession these days…

    PS, I always wish I had eaten more on trips too!

  11. I see no problem with a little sin, so long as it’s eating cheese in France! Sounds like heaven! Great peek inside something to love about France besides Paris. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Hi Mary! I’m a fan of the fried from way back, but can’t say I’ve ever had fried goat cheese. Must try it!

    Hi Kirsten! you are so welcome! Cheese eating sins are the best!

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