Cheeses bearing the AOC mark:
Contrary to some beliefs, the AOC mark does not guarantee that a cheese has been made from raw, unpasteurised milk. Specifications are partly formulated by each appellation's own professional association (made up of milk farmers, producers and maturing experts) and are “negotiated” to ensure “local, fair and constant practices”. However, when financial aspects become the predominant concern, the risk of a shift away from these standards can arise which inevitably impacts the cheese's quality (eg. the granting of permission to pasteurise milk before production, the extension of the milk collection perimeter, or the virtual elimination of the maturing process). Nevertheless the AOC label, if not the best, remains a useful reference at the least.
It should be noted that under measures to harmonise European designations of geographical origin, the (Appellation d'Origine Protégée) label came into effect from 01 May 2009 and will shortly replace the French AOC where not already the case.
Thus, all EU countries will use the same label for products with designation of origin, which will help the consumer to identify them.
Farm-produced cheeses are made from milk which has been processed at the farm on which it was produced. The milk is always processed within 24 hours of milking. The shorter the period between milking and processing, the greater the chance is of obtaining a high quality cheese. Milk from morning milking may be mixed with that from the evening, which is more mature due to the development of lactic flora. This gives the cheese the best possible depth of flavour.
Farm-produced cheeses are variable in both appearance and taste. Indeed these cheeses are the genuine product of nature, which is in itself variable. Nature's forces cannot be tamed which explains why farm-produced cheeses embody the distinctive character of the terroir so well. When ripe, these cheeses develop a powerful flavour which are the genuine expression of the terroir and the savoir-faire used to produce them.
Cheeses bear the "artisanal" label when they are made from the milk of several farms in a close area, for example, from within the same village or a group of neighbouring villages. These cheeses are also made from raw, unpasteurised milk, the appearance and flavour of which varies less. Small businesses, rather than sole farmers are responsible for the production of the cheese which is generally of high and constant quality with a distinctive character.
This final category of cheese is the most common. It comprises products which are made mostly from pasteurised milk, the shapes and names of which are frequently changed to meet the requirements of modern retail marketing. The taste of these cheeses is harmonised at the expense of character and flavour, however they keep longer and can be sold at the pre-cut counter as they withstand advance preparation better than traditionally made cheeses.