Small producers seeking to retain the use of unpasteurised milk in the production of authentic Camembert have won a significant victory. Large industrial producers of the cheese have been seeking to remove the requirement for Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) regulated Camembert to use unpasturised (raw) milk, as they consider it is a potential health hazard. By contrast, the traditionalists say that only by the use of existing production techniques can the distinctive flavour of one of France’s world famous cultural emblems be retained. They have argued that the attempt by the French multinational Lactalis to be allowed to produce AOC Camembert using pasteurised (heated and filtered) milk is merely a ploy to ease the production process and increase profits.
Other measures to reinforce the link between terroir and taste are also likely to be imposed, notably in the use of la vache normande,
Accordingly, if you want to buy the more flavoursome variety you may need to look hard to find it, and you are going to have to look carefully at the packaging. Whilst a Camembert cheese may say fabriqué en Normandie, in fact only that labelled camembert AOC de Normandie is actually the genuine unpasteurised article.
Many of the former may not even be manufactured in Normandy, as there are production plants for Camembert cheese throughout the world. Important producers of AOC Camembert include Réo, Graindorge, Moulin de Carel, Durand and, probably the daddy of them all, Gillot. In appearance, the authentic Camembert is more yellow in colour, runnier and softer in texture and, above all, more tasty than its industrial counterpart. Just what is tastes like will depend on the producer from whom you buy it, and the time of year it is made, a far cry from the standardised mass-market variety. Certain other traditional French cheeses have not benefited from the protection now being afforded to Camembert, notably Cantal, which over the past year as lost 40% of its market share, due in the main no doubt to abandoning the use of unpasteurised milk in the production process.