The COVID-19 crisis has changed the way we celebrate holidays in 2020: Bars were shut down on St. Patrick’s Day, Memorial Day gatherings were kept to a minimum, and 4th of July firework shows were cancelled. Other countries across the globe are experiencing similar celebrational shifts. July 14 is Bastille Day—France’s national holiday. It marks the beginning of the French Revolution, which led to the overthrow of the monarchy and the establishment of the French Republic. In Paris this year, the traditional military parade down the Champs-´Elysées will be replaced by a tribute to frontline heros in the Place de la Concorde, the French National Orchestra will play at the Eiffel Tower for a virtual audience, and the always spectacular fireworks show may only be viewed at a distance or on television.
We may not be able to celebrate Bastille Day in the City of Lights, but we can still honor France and the richness of French culture at home. Take a trip to your local cheese shop (or its website) to grab some of these iconic fromages and an accompanying bottle of vin, and stream the fireworks show. These iconic pairings will almost make you feel like you’re right there at the Eiffel Tower.
One of the most iconically recognizable wheels, Mimolette has a distinct orange hue and nutty flavor that keeps turophiles (and aesthetes) coming back for more. It was first produced centuries ago by French cheese makers who were inspired by Dutch Edam—a banned product at the time—and created a distinguishable orange-dyed alternative. Pair the vibrant wedge with a glass of full-bodied Malbec, and let the bold flavors join forces for a rich and luscious combination.
Nothing says French indulgence like a traditional stinky cheese paired with bubbles. And Époisses, a washed-rind wheel made from unpasteurized cow’s milk, is a favorite for funk lovers. Let the fromage get to room temperature before spreading it on a baguette (or eating it with a spoon—no judgment here) and pop the cork of a traditional Champagne to bring out its earthy and buttery notes.
Often dubbed France’s most popular cheese, Comté is a wheel you can’t skip out on when celebrating French culture. The Alpine-style fromage is made from raw cow’s milk in the Jura Mountain region of France, and evokes complex flavors ranging from dry hazelnuts to dark chocolate to meat broth. Enjoy it with a glass of Savignin, a dry white wine with light citrusy notes—also native to the Jura region—for a pairing that screams terroir.
Dessert anyone? The perfect way to end a traditional French meal is with cheese, of course—a commonly held tradition that’s being rekindled in France and beyond. And adding a sweet wine to the mix will satisfy any sweet tooth’s palate. This wedge—a mixed-milk blue with a strong, buttery flavor—gets elevated to decadent dessert status when paired with a honey topping and a sweet French wine, like the elegant and fruity Sauternes. À votre santé!