by Emily Monaco for USA TODAY 10Best

10 of the best French cheeses

Each French region has a cheese – or several cheeses – that show off its local terroir: the climate, animals and history of the area. Here are ten that will give any aspiring cheese expert an idea of the truly staggering variety.

Maroilles

This square cheese has a sticky orange rind and a dense, slightly creamy interior. It was invented by a monk who was trying to create a cheese that tasted like bacon, to be enjoyed on fasting days when meat was forbidden by the Catholic Church.

Brie de Meaux

Huge wheels of mushroom-y Brie de Meaux can be purchased from cheesemongers throughout Paris; despite its true region of production, Parisians have long considered it their local cheese.

Camembert

Today, much of France's Camembert production is pasteurized; choose instead the cheese made by the Fromagerie Durand in the village of Camembert, one of the last made with raw milk by the farmer-producer who raises his own cattle.

Sainte-Maure-de-Touraine

Image courtesy of Emily Monaco

This goat cheese is known for its log shape and ashed crust, as well as for the rye straw running through it, used during production to help it hold together.

Roquefort

The very first cheese to gain protected status in France in the 1920s, Roquefort is an assertive blue cheese made with sheep's milk and penicillium mold.

Comté

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Produced in giant, 100-plus-pound wheels and aged for between a handful of months and up to nearly four years, Comté can range from fruity and flexible to nutty and hard.

Epoisses

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This soft cheese is washed in Marc de Bourgogne, the local pomace brandy, as it ages. The resulting cheese boasts a pungent aroma, but paired with a sweet Sauternes wine, it's a local delight.

Brocciu

One of the best-known cheeses from Napoleon's home island of Corsica, brocciu is a soft, creamy, sheep's milk cheese similar to ricotta. The cheese is mild enough to be enjoyed in either savory or sweet preparations.

Tradition Salers

Image courtesy of Comité interprofessionnel de l'AOP Salers Tradition

This cheese, which has a similar texture to cheddar and vegetal, nutty flavors, stands out from other Auvergnat cheeses like Cantal or Salers by having a very strict set of rules concerning its production.

Mimolette

Legend has it that this bright orange cheese was invented to spite the Dutch. The reality is a bit more complicated, but it's still a delicious emblem of the region, with a nutty flavor that only gets more intense as the cheese ages.

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