In Delphine Carles’ first memories of Roquefort cheese, she’s following her father around a drafty limestone cave, one of the many that naturally occur in the rugged, dolomitic rock of France’s Mont Combalou. At 1,970 feet above sea level in the country’s southern Massif Central, this intricate network of caverns has earned global renown as the only place in the world Roquefort cheese can be aged. The esteemed sheep’s milk Blue — a staple on holiday cheese plates and one of France’s most popular cheeses after Brie and Comté — can only be made by seven approved cheesemakers, and Delphine is one of them.
As Americans became exposed to some of the great Blue cheeses of Europe, the demand for higher quality in domestic blues followed. There were several fine blue cheeses already being produced in the United States 20 years ago, but they simply did not have national recognition or appreciation. The same held true for many other fine American cheeses; the quality was already there, but most everyone seemed to think that our cheeses could not compare with the Old World varieties.