Getting to know fromage
Published : Mar 23, 2012 - 18:33
Updated : Mar 23, 2012 - 18:33
There are currently over 130 varieties of French-made cheese available in the South Korean market. (CNIEL/Sopexa)
Over 130 French cheese varieties available in Korea

A few decades ago, it was hard to find a wide variety of French cheese in Korea. Now, according to CNIEL communications director, Laurent Damiens, there are more than 130 kinds.

Damiens, who attended a French cheese press luncheon co-sponsored by his center in Seoul Tuesday, said that the South Korean market is quickly embracing French cheese.

“The South Korean market is still small but we see it as having great potential to become very big,” Damiens, 45, said.

According to Sopexa Korea assistant manager Cho Sun-hyung, whose agency organized the luncheon, cheese seriously started to take root here in the 1960s, when a Belgium priest taught South Koreans how to produce it.

Given that the South Korean cheese culture is relatively young, around 45 years to France’s 2,000 plus years, the current presence of more than 100 varieties of French cheese in the market is no small figure.

However, on a global level, South Korea is still a “baby market,” according to Damiens. Major markets boast more varieties. For instance, Japan has more than 200 kinds and New York 300 to 400 varieties, said Damiens.

For the average consumer, however, the mere prospect of selecting from more than 130 options in itself can be daunting.

At Tuesday’s event, members of the South Korean press were given a seminar on French cheese, including a five-course meal complete with nine varieties of French cheese currently available here.

Damiens clued attendees in on the current French trend towards pairing cheese with white wine and Champagne, a trend that started in the 1980s and really started taking off about a decade ago.

“Traditionally, cheese was paired with red wine,” he explained, before revealing that now strong cheeses are being paired with rose Champagne, pressed cheeses with white wine and Roquefort blue cheese with sweet whites.

Damiens also touched upon the tradition of pairing regional cheeses and wines; explaining that Chaource, one of the cheeses served at the luncheon, is enjoyed with Champagne because it hails from the region where Champagne is produced. 
A salad accented with Camembert walnut dressing, a bokbunja reduction and chive oil which kicked off the French cheese press luncheon held at Culinaria 12358 in Sinsa-dong, Seoul on Tuesday. (CNIEL/Sopexa)

Another cheese that arrived as part of the meal, which was served at Culinaria 12358 in Sinsa-dong, a fresh and creamy cheese called Saint Moret is spread on bread or mixed into pasta, said Damiens.

“First you cook the pasta then mix in Saint Moret at the end with salt and pepper,” he said, passing on a simple and easy way to whip up a plate of cream-style pasta.

As for Brie, Damiens refers to it as a multi-use cheese that can be eaten toasted with bread, in a sandwich or in a souffl.

After hearing about the current trend of making cheesecake with Camembert here, Damiens said that grilling Camembert, which was more commonly practiced in America, has caught on in France, and added, “Maybe Camembert cheesecake could do well in France.”

For more information on which French cheeses are available in South Korea visit

By Jean Oh (oh_jean@heraldm.ccom)