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FOOD&DRINK

French court rules on the appearance of striped cheese

Blessed are the French cheesemakers as a court in Paris has ruled in their favour, following a decade of lobbying

French court rules on the appearance of striped cheese
(Photo by ALAIN JOCARD / AFP)

The stripe in the middle of a wheel of French Morbier cheese now has legal protection following a ruling by the Cour d’Appel in Paris, which said that Article 13 of the European regulations also protects a particular characteristic of a product.

“The visual aspect of Morbier cheese, with its central and horizontal stripe, is sufficiently specific to be protected, in the same way as the name ‘morbier’,” the Court ruled.

The name of the cheese and its recipe have been protected since 2002 by the acronym PDO (Protected Designation of Origin), but the Syndicat interprofessionnel du morbier had been lobbying for a decade for a broadening of the protection, due to numerous counterfeits. 

The band in the cheese is not mould, as some may believe. It is a thin layer of ash that started being added in the late 18th century when harsh winters in the Jura meant milk deliveries could not always get through to makers of Comté cheeses.

As a result, Jura farmers started making their own cheeses. But, because they did not always have enough milk to make sufficient quantities, they protected it by adding a layer of charcoal on top so the milk would remain fresh until the next milking.

Today, two wheels are curdled separately before being joined together with the line of carbon.

“Tomorrow, there will only be one product with that dark line, that visual line, which is a particular characteristic of our morbier. It’s unique, it’s inimitable, it’s really our story and it’s our cheese,” Joël Alpy, milk producer in the Jura and president of the Syndicat interprofessionnel du morbier told BFM TV.

The news is not only good for morbier producers as it sets a precedent for all other cheese producers.

“This is the first time that Article 13 of the European regulation has been used, which stipulates that the PDO protects the name but also a particular characteristic of a product that can mislead the consumer during the act of purchase,” explains Joël Alpy.

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FOOD&DRINK

Can the French embrace cuisine sans booze?

It remains an uncomfortably foreign idea for some, but even the wine-loving French are experimenting with non-alcoholic drinks these days.

Can the French embrace cuisine sans booze?

Being pregnant or the designated-driver in France — or attempting a “Dry January” after a booze-soaked festive season — has tended to leave few exciting drinks options when dining out.

“When I was pregnant, it was annoying to go to a restaurant and be stuck with water for the whole night,” said Argentinian sommelier Paz Levinson.

She works with Anne-Sophie Pic, the chef with the most Michelin stars in the world, and they have pioneered new approaches to drinks-pairing, such as a Brazilian coffee infusion served with the venison at their triple-starred Valence restaurant.

“It’s starting to catch on,” said Pic. “Everyone is trying it.”

Paris-based mixologist Yann Daniel admits he was “fairly dubious” about the idea at first, but quickly realised how many people were thirsty for low- and non-alcoholic concoctions.

“It’s a trend that is growing in France, following the Anglo-Saxons who are always a bit ahead of us in these things,” he told AFP.

He was commissioned to put together a menu of light cocktails based around spices, herbs, roots and teas for a hotel chain this autumn, while his colleague Matthias Giroud published a book of cocktail recipes called “No Low” (no alcohol and low alcohol).

Not everyone is convinced.

Guy Savoy, the best chef in the world according to The List, says the trend is better reserved for countries without a world-beating wine industry.

“In the number one country for great wine — I’m not judging, but it doesn’t fit,” he told AFP. 

But the data seems clear: French alcohol consumption has fallen steeply, with the average intake per adult down from 17.7 litres a year in 1960 to 9.2 litres in 2014, according to Our World in Data.

And many restaurateurs are also excited about the opportunities for new inventions.

At his eponymous restaurant near the Eiffel Tower, two-Michelin-star chef David Toutain pairs his lobster with an infusion of fir tree buds, the eel with an apple juice mixed with fennel vinegar and the pigeon with a beet-carrot nectar.

These options now sit alongside wine selections on the menu.

“It’s taken me years to put all this in place,” Toutain told AFP.

He prefers it to pairing with wines, which are never made specifically with the dish in mind.

“It takes you deeper into the experience,” he said.

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