Saturday, August 28, 2021

The Valençay AOP Cheese and the Valençay AOP Wines. The Town of Valençay and the Chateau de Valençay.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
The Valençay Cheese.
Photograph courtesy of Frédérique Voisin-Demery
The Valençay Cheese and Wine

In 1998 the Valençay cheese received AOC status and the wine followed in 2004. That made the town of Valençay the first place in France to have both an AOC cheese and AOC wines. 

The Valençay cheese and the Valençay wines took their name from the small and attractive town of Valençay in the Valley of the Loire. The valley has beautiful countryside with fabulous chateaus and some of France’s most beautiful villages. Many of these are within 50 – 80 km (30 - 50 miles) of Valençay.

The town of Valençay is in the department of Indre. Indre, together with the department of Cher, was created from the old Province of Berry during the French revolution. Berry has its own cuisine, and though rarely heard today, it also has its own language. Along with its cuisine, the language is called Berrichone.

France’s mainland regions.
The departments of Indre and Cher are in the region of the Centre-Val de Loire, close to the center of mainland France.
Photograph courtesy of
The Valençay Cheese

Valençay is a mild, tasty, smooth, creamy, non-pasteurized goat’s milk cheese with 45% fat. (A pasteurized version of the Valençay cheese is available for export). Both versions of this cheese are at their best when just ripened, and that’s after about five weeks of aging when the edible rind becomes blue-grey. The blue color develops naturally as the cheese ages. The farm-made cheese, marked “Fermier,” is covered with a charcoal powder before sale though the rind remains edible. When I have the opportunity, I scrape off most of the charcoal and enjoy the rind. The dairy-produced cheeses are marked “Laitier” and are covered with vegetable ash.

Valencay “Fermier”
A farm made Valencay
Photograph courtesy of Affinord. 

The Valençay cheese looks like a truncated pyramid, and its weight varies between 250 grams ( 8.8 oz) to 300 grams ( 10.5 oz) with a base of 6 cm (2.4”) by 6 cm (2.4”). Also available is a Petit Valençay, which weighs approximately 110 grams. Both are suitable sizes to take home from a visit to France. Request a cheese that will be ready in one week and have it vacuumed packed. The cheese will be perfect if placed in the refrigerator when you return home within 48 hours, and it will keep well for about two to three weeks. Keep it refrigerated, not frozen. Take it out of the refrigerator one hour before serving. (For more about buying and taking French cheeses home, click here). When taking this cheese back home with you, make sure you buy one that explicitly says pasteurized. Declare it, and the customs will not argue with a pasteurized cheese.

Valençay cheeses made with organic milk are available. They will have the word Bio or Biologique a food product is organic the label will include the government-approved AB logo clearly visible. 


The AB organic produce label.
The AB logo became part of French law in1985. 
The label identifyies products that are defined as organic under French law.

Fresh goat’s cheeses will be off the market between January and February. These two months are the birth times for most goats, and then the nanny goats need their milk for their young. However, matured cheeses will still be available. The whole region around Valençay is famous for its goat’s cheeses. Look out for the local Crottin de Chavignol AOP, Pouligny Saint Pierre AOP; Selles sur Cher, AOP, and the Sainte-Maure-de-Touraine AOP. 

A few of France’s many goat’s cheeses.
Photograph courtesy of Marc Kjerland
The Valençay cheese and its shape.

The Valençay cheese itself is considered a new cheese as it is only 200 years old! With its truncated pyramid, the cheese's shape has many stories about how it arrived at its final shape. The stories told and retold include a tongue-in-cheek story that includes Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte I. In that story, Emperor Napoleon I cuts off the cheese's pointed top with his sword since the points reminded him of the sails of the British ships that destroyed his navy in the Battle of the Nile. Nevertheless, whatever the reason for the flat-topped pyramid, it is the shape of the cheese today, and its taste remains none the worse for it.

Valençay cheese on French Menus:

Polenta Crémeuse au Fromage de Valençay et Flan de Sucrine du Berry  Polenta is the French version of the North Italian dish of cornmeal polenta. For much of the European peasantry, polenta was a cornmeal and corn flour dish brought from the New World and easily adapted to France's agricultural needs. Cornmeal saved many peasants from starvation. Today polenta in France and Italy has returned as a fashionable side dish in fine restaurants. Here a creamy polenta is made with Valençay cheese and served with a flan made from the Sucrine du Berry. The Sucrine du Berry is a baby Romaine lettuce; it is crisp and sweet and sold as the "Little Gem" in North America. In France, the Sucrine du Berry may be in your salad or part of another dish. In Berry, where this baby lettuce was first grown in France, restaurants may also offer Soupe à la Sucrine du Berry, a little gem lettuce soup. For more about Berry's cuisine, click here.

Beetroot and watercress on a base of Valençay cheese.

Quiche de Valençay au Parfum de Basilic - quiche made with Valençay cheese and flavored with basil.

Boudin Noir au Valençay, Purée de Pommes de Terre – The French version of Black pudding, the much-loved pork blood sausage served with here with Valençay cheese and mashed potatoes.

Valençay AOC/AOP Wines

The Valençay AOP wines are whites, roses, and reds. The white wines blends include  Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris, Chardonnay, and sometimes the Arbois grape. The rosés are made from Gamay, Pinot Noir and Pineau d'Aunis. The Reds use the Gamay, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, and Pinot Noir grapes. Even with all these grape, only 240 acres are included in the Valençay appellation, and so from this tiny area comes an extensive range of wines. When you try a Valençay wine, you had better have done your homework or brought an up-to-date French wine book with you or have a knowledgeable sommelier as the wines produced under the label Valençay are incredibly varied. Valençay wines are not a single type of blend.

Rose and white Valençay wines
Photograph courtesy of Loire Valley Wine
Valençay wines on French menus:

Salade Berrichonne, Œuf Poché Sauce Valençay Toast de Chèvre Valençay Chaud, Lardons Légèrement Fumés, Lentilles Vertes du Berry -  The Berrichonne salad is prepared with an egg poached in a Valençay wine sauce served with toast and warm Valençay cheese. The dish is accompanied by slowly smoked lardons (bacon pieces) and the famous green lentils of berry. Dishes with accents from the old Berry province will be on the menu as Berrichonne. Despite the two-hundred years that changed the name of the province the people still call themselves Berrichonnes.

Entrecôte Sauce Vin Valençay à la MoellePommes Frites - An entrecote is a rib-eye steak in North America and a rib-eye, fore rib or Sirloin in the UK. (USA sirloins are a different cut). Entrecôte is a French name and means between the ribs, and that it is. A French entrecote steak is usually prepared without the bone and is one of the tastiest steaks that any restaurant can offer.  Here the steak is prepared in a Valençay wine sauce with added bone marrow and served with French fries, the UK chips. (To order your steak cooked the way you prefer click here.) 

Tournedos de Lapereau Farci Sauce au Valençay Rouge  A stuffed tournedos from a young, farm-raised rabbit stuffed and prepared with a Valençay red wine sauce. A Tournedos is usually thought of as cut from a fillrt steak like a Tournedos Rossini; however, the word is used to described a thick cut.  However, a tournedos of a young rabbit must be seen through the eye of the beholder. From a young rabbit, the tournedos is not going to be a large serving. 


A red Valençay wine
Photograph courtesy of Loire Valley Wine
Wines from the Loire Valley include the Valençay  wines. 

If you are looking for wines from Valençay as well as the area around the town, then you had better have done your homework. Your homework will need a very up-to-date book on French wines and there are some excellent pocketbooks are available. In the Loire Valley, there over 69 appellations and producing them are hundreds, if not thousands of vintners. In a restaurant, which in any case will not offer all the 69 different appellations, ask for their carte du vins, their wine-list. Then to reduce the myriad choices look for their white, rosé and light red Sancerre wines, the wines of Anjou, Saumur, and the Touraine. In a restaurant, a good sommelier along with your French wine book and a clear budget will aid in choosing the better vintners and the affordable years. I am not a wine maven and without a book, I would not remember 10% of the vintners, let alone the years with the best vintages.

Over a three day period, Valençay has its wine and cheese fete. It is usually held in the last days of May and the beginning of June. However, dates have been known to move a little every year or so. Check with the French Tourist Information Office in your home country before leaving home or look at the Valençay Tourist Information Office website: 

The town of Valençay
Photograph courtesy of Moto Itinerari

The attractive small town of Valençay is walkable; it has less than 3,000 inhabitants. The town has an antique car museum, the Musee de l'Automobile de Valencay; most cars are pre - 1939. N.B. The museum is closed from mid-November through Mid-March. The town also has a museum of sugar art: The Musee du Sucre d'Art is attached to a local pastry shop.

In Valençay, there is a farmer's market every Tuesday morning, and the Valençay Tourist Information Office has the dates and times for other markets and points of interest around the town.

A Panhard-Levassor X-17-SS, 1912.
From the Valençay Car Museum
Photograph courtesy of Daniel Jolivet
The Chateau de Valençay.

The Chateau de Valençay is one of the most beautiful Chateaus in France. It was made famous by Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord (1754 – 1838), France’s first consummate politician.

The Chateau de Valençay.
Photograph courtesy of Patrick

Under King Philippe XVI Talleyrand, the last king before the French revolution was a deputy of the National Assembly. Then, after the French revolution in 1789, France was ruled by a new National Assembly. Talleyrand participated in writing the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen. The writers of that French declaration included some famous American citizens led by Thomas Jefferson as well as Thomas Payne and Benjamin Franklin. 

The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen were passed by France's National Constituent Assembly the 26 August 1789.  The United States Bill of Rights that comprises the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution were proposed on September 25, 1789 and ratified on December 15, 1791.  Without faxes or email, the very similar laws were proposed 30 days apart.

Five years later on, the 2nd November 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte crowned himself Emperor Napoléon 1 and his wife, Josephine Empress. The new Emperor’s first appointment as Foreign Minister was…. Talleyrand. In 1804, Talleyrand bought a monetary gift from Napoleon, the beautiful Château de Valençay. In this Château, Talleyrand employed the man who would become the most famous chef of the 19th century, Antonin Carême. Talleyrand believed in a well-set table along with excellent wines to win over politicians and prominent visitors to France. Carême and his cuisine brought the power behind the thrones of foreign rulers to Talleyrand’s table.  

Talleyrand served all masters and promoted at varying times opposing ideas. Talleyrand was also an ordained Bishop of the Roman Catholic Church, but turned against the Church with the revolution’s anti-clerical bias. He became the Foreign Minister of Emperor Napoleon 1 and would later serve in the same post for King Louis XVIII after the monarchy was restored when the combined armies of Europe overthrew Napoleon. Talleyrand made tens of millions for a politician in the 18th and 19th centuries; today, that would be billions. Talleyrand, essential as he was at the time, would today be in jail for insider trading, bribery, breach of trust, accepting bribes, demanding bribes, along with money laundering, and much more!

The Chateau is open from the beginning of April until the first few days of January and even on France’s sacred museum Mondays. However, French dates and hours occasionally move around, so do check the dates and times with the Chateau’s English language website: 

The gardens of the Chateau de Valençay.
Photograph courtesy of stephane333

Talleyrand resigned his post of foreign minister in 1807, and then with time on his hands and money in his pockets in 1812, Talleyrand bought a permanent home in Paris on the Place de Concorde, Paris. That was a town palace that became known as the Hôtel de Talleyrand. After WWII, that palace was the headquarters of the Marshall Plan, and the United States still owns the building.

The building is now fully restored to the former glory seen under Talleyrand and may be visited; just ask directions to the Hôtel de Talleyrand on the Place de Concorde, Paris.

 With Napoléon’s defeat in 1814, Talleyrand once again changed sides as well as political philosophies; this time, he supported the return of the French Bourbon Kings. The first French King after Emperor Napoleon I was Louis XVIII (1814-1824), and he made Talleyrand the chief French negotiator at the Congress of Vienna in 1814. When Napoleon I returned in February 1815 and reached Paris in March 1815, Talleyrand remained a private citizen. Then in 1830, a new King from the Orleans branch of the royal family King Louis-Philippe (1830 - 1848), came to power, and Talleyrand, now aged 76, became the French Ambassador to the United Kingdom (1830-1834). Talleyrand died aged 84. On his deathbed, he changed sides again and repented for all his sins and received absolution from the Roman Catholic Church. Talleyrand is buried in the grounds of the Château de Valençay.

For those seeking a quieter vacation near Valençay:

For those seeking a quieter vacation near Valençay, the River Naon south-east of the town is a favorite site for amateur anglers and picnics. Fishing permits cost some 12 Euros per day, and all the equipment for an angler, from worms to rods, are available close by.  


Searching for the meaning of words, names or phrases
a French menu?

Just add the word, words, or phrase that you are searching for to the words "Behind the French Menu" (best when including the inverted commas), and search with Google.  Behind the French Menu’s links, include hundreds of words, names, and phrases that are seen on French menus. There are over 450 articles that include over 4,000 French dishes with English translations and explanations.


Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2015, 2021
For information on the unpublished book behind this blog write to Bryan Newman

Connected Posts:

AOP, IGP and Vin de France. The Labels on French Wines.
Á la Moelle – Dishes Served With or Flavored With Bone Marrow. Á la Moelle on French Menus.
Anjou and Angevines – Dining in the Maine et Loire, France.
Antonin Carême: The Most Influential Chef in the History of French Cuisine.
Bacon in France. Bacon and Salted Pork on French Menus. Lard in French Means Bacon in English.
Basil - Basilic or Herbe Royal. Basil in French Cuisine.
Berry, One of France’s historic Provinces, Enjoy its excellent Berrichonne Cuisine. Savor its wines. Taste its outstanding cheeses and much more.
Bio or Biologique. Aliments Biologiques, Produits Biologiques AB - Organic Food and Wine in France.
Boudins and Black Puddings on French Menus. The Sausages of France II.
Buying Cheese in France. Bringing French Cheese Home and a Lexicon for buying French Cheese.
Champagne the Most Famous Sparkling Wine in the World. Choosing the Champagne that Meets your Sweetness Preferences.
Cremants are the best value in French sparkling wines .
Crottin de Chavignol AOP. One of France’s outstanding goats’ milk cheeses.
Entrecôte (Entrecote). Ordering a Perfect Entrecote Steak in France.
Frites or Pommes Frites - French Fries in the USA and Chips in the UK. French Fries on French Menus.
Lapin and Lièvre – Rabbits and Hares. Rabbit and Hares in French Cuisine.
Lentilles – Lentils. Lentils are all over French Menus. The Lentil in French Cuisine. 
Ordering a Steak in France, Cooked the Way you Like it.
Ordering a Steak in France, Cooked the Way you Like it.
Quiche Lorraine - The Origin of all Quiches is the Lorraine in North-Eastern France.
Sainte-Maure de Touraine AOC. The Sainte-Maure de Touraine Cheese. Sainte-Maure de Touraine is One of France's Finest Goat's milk cheeses
Sancerre Wines and Sancerrois. Choosing and Tasting Sancerre Wines. Sancerre Wines on French Menus.
Soupe - Soup. The Treasures to be Found in in French Soups. A Lexicon of French Soups.
 Tournedos Rossini, after 150 years still the most famous of all steak dishes. Tournedos Rossini and Gioacchino Rossini.

No comments:

Post a Comment