In the south of Aveyron, just 30 minutes from Millau Viaduct, Roquefort is a little village where there are more people working in the cheese cellars of the cheesemakers Société, Papillon and Gabriel Coulet than there are inhabitants. Made only from the milk of ewes of the Lacaune breed, the king of cheeses is a true original, in its flavours as much as in the way it is matured.
This is because the village of Roquefort stands at the foot of the Combalou limestone cliffs, full of natural cracks where, from the 17th century onwards, the locals created storage cellars.
Ten floors underground
Ten underground floors, corridors like streets, cellars that resemble crypts, with arches and pillars: it feels like you are exploring an incredible underground city where hundreds of people are busy working at impressive ranks of Roquefort pains lined up on oak shelves.
Inside this rocky labyrinth a special damp, cool micro-climate reigns, where the temperature is a constant 8 to 10°C both summer and winter. When you pass one of the many fleurines (natural cracks) that permeate the rock, you'll feel the faint very cold breeze that helps keep the cellars at the required humidity. This environment gives rise to the microscopic flora that decorates the cheeses with their delicate emerald and royal blue veins.
The maturing process for Roquefort, the oldest AOC (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée) in France (1925), takes three months, during which the affineurs put all their ingenuity and experience to good use in their careful handling of the cheeses.