Precariously placed on a cracker, cooked inside a savoury scone, stuffed inside a crusty baguette, as an accompaniment to a large glass of wine or straight off the knife, cheese is (in my humble opinion) simply divine. For all cheese addicts, the chance to taste a new variation of cheese will be a highlight of any travel destination.
Here are some of the top European destinations for cheese lovers:
You will find a range of cheeses available in Austria, many enjoying the benefits of Alpine dairies and herbs to develop their unique flavour. Try a variety from the Bergkäse with their natural and aromatic taste deriving from the mountains, your taste buds will be tingling for more.
If you are asked to close your eyes, think of cheese and name the first country that comes into your mind, the chances are that you will say France. With over 400 types of cheese originating from the country, this is no surprise!
Arriving in Paris, head straight off the cobbled path to a cheesemonger and delve into smooth Brie whilst becoming acquainted with the vast array of other cheeses available in other regions of France.
Normandy, on the north-western coast of France is famed for its speciality cheeses. From the renowned creamy and mild Camembert to the pungent Livarot and the slightly crumbly Neufchâtel, this region boasts one of the most exquisite cheese boards in France.
Travel east from the coast to the mountain range of the French Alps for a taste of France’s finest alpine cheeses including Reblochon, Beaufort, Abondance, Bleu de Sassenage, and Tomme de Savoie.
If goat’s cheese is more to your taste, then head to the Loire Valley to taste velvety Valencay and visit some of the best goat’s cheese makers in the world.
You are sure to be able to pick up some of the famed Roquefort, one of the world’s most luxurious blue cheeses in most area of France but for a taste in its original setting, head south west to the Midi-Pyrenees region.
Bavarian Blue is sometimes nicknamed “mountain Roquefort”, due to a similarity with France’s famous blue. But Bavarian Blue is made from the milk of cows fed on the green pastures of the Bavarian Alps rather than Roquefort’s sheep. It is said that the best Bavarian Blue is smoother and creamier than its French cousin.
Whilst in Bavaria, try the Champignon de Luxe Pepper. The green Madagascar peppercorns give a mild, spicy flavour to this cheese which is best enjoyed with a strong white wine in southern Lauben.
If you are visiting Greece, you will not be able to escape the taste of Feta. Produced in several regions of the country, grainy and crumbly Feta is a key ingredient in the best of Greek dishes.
Italian cuisine goes without saying and the array of pungent cheeses on offer top it off.
The northern Italian region of Emilia Romagna is the birthplace of Parmigiano Reggiano. Following its production via a strict regulatory regime and a minimum 12 months’ ageing, the “King of All Cheeses”, will not disappoint.
Staying in the north, a young cheese called Castelmagno, found in its originated province of Piedmont, starts with a mild blue flavour, and gets more intense and spicy as it ages.
One of the best Italian cheeses to keep a look out for as you travel further south include Pecorino, which can be found all over central and southern Tuscany and is a delicious hard cheese made from sheep’s milk, often associated with a sharp, nutty flavour.
If you are considering a trip to Italy, have a look at my tried and tested itinerary here.
I am a big fan of smooth, Dutch cheese. Whether you’re visiting South Holland to sample the iconic Gouda at a seasonal cheese market or heading to North Holland for traditional Edam and rich, mature Beemster, count me in.
Spanish cheeses are full of intense flavours and a wide variety of textures.
Arriving in Madrid, after a quick trip south to fill up on Manchego, head north west for a taste of Zamorano, a hard sheep’s milk cheese that has a distinct nutty flavour and is served with chestnuts.
Head north to Asturias and enjoy soft Torta del Casal. Whilst here, marvel at Cabrales made in the artisan tradition by the rural famers here giving it a stronger, spicier flavour.
You don’t have to go far to reach the Beautiful Basquer Country where you can sample the intense Idiazabal cheese.
Whilst Spain’s central and northern regions are the country’s cheese-making heartland, the far south west county of Extremadura which borders Portugal produces Queso de la Serena using the unpasteurized milk of Merino sheep that graze the pastures.
You are likely to have tasted the famed Emmental cheese (yes, the holey one) but head westward out of central Switzerland and you will come across Gruyere. Melt this over some fresh bread and engross yourself in its sweet and nutty taste.
I couldn’t create this list without including a cheese from my own country! Visit our land of castles and dragons to try Caerphilly, an earthy, crumbly cheese perfect with sweet pickles.