Lou Claousou: The wonder of Fromage – unveiling one French cheese at a time

In the heart of France, in the heart of the Massif Central, in the heart of Lozère, the calcium plateau of the Causse Méjean boasts a truly unique terroir, surrounded by gorges and caves, streaked with rivers and creeks, positively perfect for raising hardy sheep.

Lou Glaousou

The area, inscribed as a natural UNESCO World Heritage site in 2011, is perhaps best known as the home of one of France’s most famous fromages: the blue-veined Roquefort that conquered the hearts of everyone from Charlemagne to Diderot and became, in 1925, the country’s first AOC-protected cheese. But at Le Fédoula Fromagerie de Hyelzas, the team has devoted its efforts to a whole other cheese, based on techniques from a whole other mountain range.

We were inspired by what they’re doing in Mont d’Or, with the use of that spruce ring to maintain a cheese that, if you were to leave it be, would spread and run,” explains Vincent Pratlong, who took over the company founded by his grandfather in 2015.

It quickly became something our teams loved, our clients loved, and then, bit by bit, it found its place on the horizon of cheeses sold in France and beyond.” Lou Claousou (pronounced loo-clow-zoo) is innovative by design, according to Pratlong, a natural addition to the team’s eclectic offering including both traditional and novel creations: Traditional pressed ewe’s milk tommes and fresh brousses sit alongside creamy Titounet, a sheep’s milk camembert, or La Téoulette, a rich rectangle boasting both bloom and ash on its rind.

At our core, we have this irrepressible desire to try new things with the milk we transform,” explains Pratlong. And while some of the team’s more novel ideas never saw the light of day or faded from grace, Lou Claousou quickly became a true crowd- pleaser.

The soft-ripened cheese is made with the milk of Lacaune ewes – the very same sheep that provide the milk for Roquefort – gathered from farms in the area and transformed by the team at Le Fédou. Indeed, while the cheesemakers do raise their own sheep,
Pratlong explains, that the team made a conscious decision to expand its production without expanding its flock.

If we had continued to be fermier and grow our flock and try to buy land around us, we would have been alone in the area,” he says. “This way, we’ve allowed other farmers to set up in the area to provide us with milk, which means there are other companies in the villages and hamlets all around us.”

A Character-Driven Cheese

Lou Claousou is a study in delightful contrasts. Rich and creamy thanks to the use of ewe’s milk, which boasts a higher fat content than that of cows, goats, or even water buffalo, the cheese lacks the assertiveness synonymous with the region’s Roquefort. But this, according to Pratlong, should come as no surprise: While sheep’s milk cheeses are often associated with a pronounced sheepy flair, turophiles often describe it as a “lanolin” quality, on the contrary,

if you blind-taste sheep’s milk among other milk types, lots of people will find it quite bland.”

At the end of the day, it’s a milk that’s quite mild,” he continues. “It’s got a lot of texture but really is quite mild, with very little ‘barnyardy’ aroma.”

It’s this mild, creamy character that the team sought to highlight with Lou Claousou, which is above all recognizable for its mild creaminess. Its punch instead comes from gentle washing in brine, which, compounded with the spruce ring in which it is wrapped
before it ages, lends a slight umami funk to the finished fromage.

You have a balance between that ‘mushroominess’ of the bloom and the minerality of the brine and the regular washing,” explains Pratlong. The spruce ring also provides ample opportunity for the cheese to develop a soft, runny interior that almost collapses into custard.

This cheese is really the symbol of our ability to integrate old and new,” he says, citing a certain “audacity” in its development.

In the world of sheep’s milk cheeses, this mix of woodsy aromas and a soft-ripened pate just didn’t exist.”

The innovation certainly struck a chord with Laure Cluzan, maître d’hôtel of two-Michelin-starred Table in Paris.

You really don’t expect it to have so much flavor,” she says of the cheese, which she discovered in her previous position as maître d’hôtel at the two-Michelin-starred Le Clarence, which has long been known for its bountiful cheese cart. In sourcing new selections from Paris’ Fromagerie Griffon in the 7th arrondissement, she recalls,

I asked for a sheep cheese that broke a bit with the norm. Because it’s true that sheep cheeses are usually fresh or pressed, and I was kind of tired of Ossau Iraty.”

When she discovered Lou Claousou, she was conquered by the balance of creaminess and lightness, with the marriage of lanolin notes and warm, toasty flavors of walnut and hazelnut.

I think it’s a great cheese,” she says, “and when you don’t like cheese, I think it’s a cheese that helps you like cheese.”

Tasting Lou Claousou

A cheese as unique as Lou Claousou opens the door to equally unique pairings. Cluzan loves Lou Claousou all on its own, but she also enjoys it with the sweet cereal notes of multigrain bread or the classic sheep’s milk pairing of quince paste. At Le Clarence, she often served it with a pear-mustard jam or Italian mostarda, which brought out the fruity and spicy notes in the cheese.

But Lou Claousou is also delicious when cooked. Much like the washed-rind, spruce-wrapped specialty that inspired it, Lou Claousou can be baked and drizzled over potatoes and charcuterie. The cheesemakers have even developed a recipe for Caussiflette – a play on tartiflette – featuring the cheese.

Beverage pairings

As for beverage pairings, Pratlong quite likes mineral white wines, which bring out the cheese’s woodsy notes. But beer is just as wonderful an accompaniment, if not a better one, at least if you ask Thomas Cazenave, the brewer behind Les Brasseurs de la Jonte. Cazenave started as a cheesemaker; it was while he was working with the team at Le Fédou that he began his adventures in home brewing. But once he was bit by the beer bug, he was hooked, and he soon abandoned cheesemaking to focus on brewing professionally.

His Feuillette, an amber beer aged in Cognac barrels with raspberries, pairs wonderfully with soft cheeses like Lou Claousou, highlighting its woodsy aromas and mild acidity.

“The beer is fairly structured and has a lot of body; it has a long finish and a bit of sugar,” he says. “It marries really, really well.”



Have you tasted Lou Claousou? Is it among your favourites? Please leave your comments below.


About the Contributor

Emily Monaco

“Born and raised in New York, I fell in love with France young and have been based in Paris for over 15 years. I am a professional freelance writer, tour guide, and cheese connoisseuse, as well as the host of Navigating the French and co-host of The Terroir Podcast. Follow me on Instagram and sign up for my newsletter for my favorite bites and more from Paris.”

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!

Leave A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.