The star: Saint-Marcellin
A natural choice. The perfect partner for a bottle of Côte du Rhône, Saint-Marcellin dates back to the fifteenth century, hailing from the village of the same name in Isère, in the area known as Sud Grésivaudan. This cheese is made with untreated cow's milk, but was originally a small farmhouse tomme made with goat’s milk. After becoming highly popular in the nineteenth century, it has been gradually refined over the years. It would now be unthinkable for it not to be on the menu of one of Lyon’s bouchons (authentic traditional eateries). We wonder how the folk of Lyon could live without this smooth cheese and its distinct flavour (especially when aged).
*Côtes du Rhône
The big cousin: Saint-Félicien
This cheese is from the eponymous town in the Ardèche region. While it is less popular than Saint-Marcellin, Saint-Félicien is its closest relative in terms of its production method. It is larger in size, richer and creamier, with subtle notes of hazelnut.
The little one that packs a punch: Arôme Lyonnais
This soft cow’s milk cheese has a rind covered in ‘gênes’ (pressed grape residue). It is aged for four to eight weeks in barrels of marc (or white wine). It is a small cheese (barely more than 6 cm), but is packed with taste. Cheese sellers generally buy it fresh, so as to age it according to the tastes of their customers.
The one with a story: Cervelle de Canut
Also known as ‘claqueret’, Cervelle de Canut was the favourite cheese (and often the only cheese) of the nineteenth-century silk workers who lived in the Croix-Rousse district. People in Lyon like to supplement this smooth fromage blanc in many different ways. Olive oil, chives, parsley, tarragon (why not), garlic, onion. Shallots, white wine or extra crème fraîche.
The goat’s knees: Bouton Lyonnais
Cow’s milk can be difficult to digest if you have a fragile stomach. Some restaurants in Lyon offer little specialities made entirely with goat’s milk. You can also try the Rigotte de Condrieu (made in the Pilat), Caillou du Rhône, Bouton de Culotte or Charolais cheese.
The lighter option: Tomme du Beaujolais
This large cheese made with love in the Beaujolais region contains “only” 22% fat. This relatively mild cheese will suit those with a more sensitive palate. We have it on good authority that it also melts deliciously on potatoes.
The strong one: Fromage fort de la Croix-Rousse
A good platter can (sometimes) allow itself one quirky cheese. Also eaten in the Dombes and Beaujolais regions, Fromage Fort de la Croix-Rousse (or ‘FFCR’) is a blend of various blue cheeses and very old (maybe too old?) goat's cheeses, which are crushed and mixed with white wine, salt and pepper, and leaven. It is then preserved in a jar for a whole year. Try a little bit before taking a whole slice: it is not for the faint-hearted!
Where to find, buy and taste these delightful cheeses?
Also, any market in Lyon worth its salt will have at least one cheese stand or local producers.
Further information on markets