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Barge Cruises Help Foodies Taste French Cheeses Like Pros

December 22nd, 2014

Do you love exploring a country through its cuisine? Barge cruises in France offer not only gourmet cuisine and fine wines, but also plentiful opportunities to learn about cheese tasting. There’s a degree of skill and etiquette attached to it, much like tasting olive oils and wines. So we’ve assembled a few cheese tasting basics to help our valued passengers prepare.

Cheese plate on deluxe Burgundy barge Apres Tout

Deluxe 6-passenger Burgundy barge Apres Tout cheese plate


French cheese flights

French cheese flights are normally served on a platter or board. They may be accompanied by a series of cheese knives, tongs and dainty forks. The knives are traditionally used to taste all of the cheeses with the exception of those that have been marinated. The prongs on special cheese forks and knives are normally used to transfer the samples from the platter to individual tasting plates.

Sometimes the French cheeses are served with regional breads, olives, crackers, fruits and wines to help add depth and breadth to the tasting session. If that’s the case, tasters should consider sampling the cheeses alone first to get a feel for their unique flavors. Otherwise, the accompanying delights may overpower the cheese or alter its flavor. Most often, cheeses are tasted from the mildest to the strongest to savor the more delicate flavors first.

Deluxe barge Saint Louise cheese board

Deluxe 6-passenger barge Saint Louis serves a variety of French cheeses at lunch and dinner

Cheese tasting etiquette

Tasting etiquette dictates that French cheeses should be visually examined and sniffed before being placed in the mouth. Once in the mouth, the taster should make a mental note of the cheese’s texture and nuanced flavors. In serious cheese tastings, it is also vital to note that clean forks and knives should be chosen before every bite to avoid cross contamination between the cheeses.

Proper technique for cutting French cheese

On occasion, barge cruisers will be presented with whole cheeses and allowed to cut their own samples. If that happens, there is additional etiquette involved. For example, it is generally considered good form to cut from the center of the cheese out towards the rind. The center tip of the cheese’s wedge is normally the prized part whereas the area nearest to the rind is often avoided. Therefore, many professional cheese tasters recommend slicing the pointed tip off of the wedge first and sharing it with all of those at the tasting table. If that is not possible, each taster should ideally be given a chance to sample tips from the other cheeses included in the flight. We’ve been taught NOT to cut off the nose of a wedge of cheese, but rather cut at a diagonal so all tasters can sample a morsel of the soft interior.

To learn more about French cheese tasting etiquette and cheeses served with lunch and dinner on barge cruises in France, please contact us today.

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Whenever you’re ready to go barging, we’re ready to help. Happy travels,

Beth Hanson
Barge Cruise Specialist since 1988