1 11 2011


Valençay is one of my favorite goat cheeses.  I picked up a gorgeous one at the market last weekend, and when Nick decided to take some lovely photos of it, I realized it was high time I gave this flat-topped pyramid a moment in the spotlight.

This cheese, which is named for the Loire Valley town in which it is produced, earned AOC status in 1998, making Valençay the first place in France to have AOCs for both their wine and their cheese.  Legend has it that Napoleon, upon returning from a particularly unsuccessful business trip to Egypt, stopped at the château in Valençay and flew into a rage upon seeing the local cheese in the shape of a pyramid.  He lopped off the top with his sword, thus giving the cheese its current signature shape.

Stories aside, Valençay is made using only raw goat’s milk.  It’s rubbed with salted ashes and left to mature for about 3 weeks, during which time a thin, bloomy gray rind develops.  Just underneath the mellow, earthy rind lies the firm yet creamy interior.  It has a pleasant citrusy tang, and is only mildly goaty.  Even though it may look intimidating to cheese newbies (I myself used to shy away from ashed or ashy-looking cheeses), Valençay is not at all challenging.  Which is not to say that die-hard cheese lovers don’t appreciate it.  On the contrary, I think this is one that just about anyone can enjoy.

I bought this particular cheese from the very friendly proprietor of La Ferme de la Prairie (known in some circles as the UCG – Ultimate Cheese Guy), who sells only goat cheeses, and for very reasonable prices.  While a typical Valençay might cost 7 or 8 euros, his comes in at 5 and change.  He also provides samples of several of his cheeses, with a liberal tasting policy – knives and cheeses are placed on top of the counter, it’s up to you to cut your own tastes.  He’ll ask how aged or fresh you’d like your cheese, and if you’re not sure, he’s happy to give his opinion.  A visit to his stand is a must if I’m at the Grenelle market on Sunday morning.

On this day in 2010: Chartres

Originally published on Croque-Camille.

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21 responses

1 11 2011

I like the story about Valencay coming about because of Napoleon becoming enraged over their shape. But as you say, stories aside, I love this goat cheese.

1 11 2011
Jenni Field (@onlinepastrychf)

That is a gorgeous cheese! I wish I had an UGG here. :/ Lucky! 8D

1 11 2011
marie Z johnston

I have a huge crush on Jean-Louis… or maybe it’s his cheese. Have you had the fresh stuff on toast? Mmmmm

2 11 2011

I was fortunate enough to study for a year in Angers when I was in University, this is one of my favorite cheeses ever!!!!!

2 11 2011

*flutters around excitedly* I had this! I had this in Paris! Well, I had the Petit Valençay. I loved it! In fact, I was always going to review it in my cheese series, for which I believe I did one review over a year ago and then forgot about :P

3 11 2011

Michel – I thought that was funny too. :)

Jenni – Well, sometimes I wish I had easy access to edible tortillas. Let’s call it even. ;)

Marie – I love all his cheeses so much!

Nanan – I know, I love it, too.

Hannah – Oh, but you did! I even found it when I was doing Google research to find out a little more about this cheese.

3 11 2011

Bahaha! Oh dear heavens, I’m getting so old and senile.

4 11 2011

Wow, that is a good looking cheese.

4 11 2011
hungry dog

Only the French could make a “thin, bloomy grey rind” sound enticing! This actually does sound delicious. I’m pretty sure I’ve never tried it.

5 11 2011
Sweet Freak

You’re right: that cheese is gorgeous, and you’re absolutely making me hungry and jealous talking about wine and cheese from the Loire!

5 11 2011

Tammy – I know! It’s irresistible.

hungry dog – If you find some, do – I think you’ll really like it.

Sweet Freak – Oh, you’ll be back soon enough… right? ;)

6 11 2011
Chez Loulou

Ah, Valençay…
one of the reasons I love living in France.

7 11 2011

Loulou – Me, too! One of the many…

7 11 2011

Greatly enjoyed your take on the Valençay.
Ultimate Cheese Guy is also in the Friday afternoon Anvers market.
Actually it was my husband who started calling him UCG in this article:
The Anvers market also boasts of the Weird Vegetable Lady where you can find topinambour, crosnes, and psychedelic carrots these days (no they do not make you hallucinate, sorriest; I mean they come in many unusual vibrant colors that one does not associate with carrot).

8 11 2011

Parigi – Thanks for the link! The Anvers market sounds like it’s full of great characters. :)

13 11 2011

Oh how lovely that looks. I love goats cheese, but I don’t think I’ve had that one before. So much to look forward to….

14 11 2011

One of the things I love most about my visits to France are the cheeses. It is also what I miss the most when I’m back home.

15 11 2011

Louise – There are just so many out there to try!

Karen – I expect I’ll miss them a lot when I eventually move back to the States.

15 11 2011

In the non-regular markets (like the marché de producteurs de pays and other isolated regional markets in Paris), be careful of cheese scams.
Usually the cheesemonger sells quite high-quality cheese, and goes out of his way to target foreigners and urges you to try. Oh and his cheeses don’t have price tags, or have very small, very unclear price tags. Then the foreigner taster (1) loves cheeses, (2) feels obliged to buy, and (3) finds out too late that the cheese is outrageously priced.
We have seen this scam in Paris, Sarlat, Ile sur la Sorgue… Just be aware of this phenomenon and always look for clear pricing. And, most importantly, regardless of your upbringing, don’t feel obliged to buy. :-)

6 12 2011

Living 20 minutes from Valençay, I can recommend going there for the Tuesday morning market and all the cheese vendors. Prices are lower than in Paris too, even chez le UCG. I think the AOC for Valençay wine is much more recent than 1998 though.

7 12 2011

Parigi – I think I know exactly what you mean. I’ve seen this at many a Salon. Fortunately, I am pretty good about the obligated-to-buy thing. I don’t unless I really love the cheese.

Ken – I’m sure the cheese is cheaper closer to the motherland. :) And you’re absolutely right about the wine. It was in VDQS limbo from 1970-2003, when it finally got the AOC.


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