Soft cheese made with predominantly milk curd has been made in the Brillat-Savarin production area since medieval times. The know-how was developed in the Cistercian abbeys and then spread to the farms during the 17th and 18th centuries. Long curdling and natural draining were ideal for the pace of life on these farms. The cows were milked in the evening and the milk was left to curdle overnight. In the morning, the curd was left to drain without any particular supervision, leaving the farmers to get on with their various tasks.
A little later, from the 19th century, ways of enriching milk with fat from cream were developed in Brie and Burgundy. The production technique thus became much more intricate, as the addition of fat led to greater water retention; this produced a much more fragile curd that had to be handled very carefully to avoid breaking it. More work, more attention and more skill… but an incomparable result that soon conquered the most discerning palates in the provinces and in Paris. But the cheese’s fragility worked against it. Working methods were inconsistent, and so was quality. It was Henri Androuet, the biggest cheese merchant in the capital, who re-awakened the public’s taste for cheese made with enriched milk. In 1930, using the expertise of a talented manufacturer, he produced an outstanding cheese that he named “Brillat-Savarin”. Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin was what was known as a leading figure of his period. A good-looking man and a member of the high-class bourgeoisie who supported the ideas of the Revolution, he became a judge then a legislator. He experienced exile and a return to favour, theorised on love and worked for many years on the culinary work that made him famous. His “Physiology of Taste” was published in 1830. It was immediately a huge success in the bookshops and was placed alongside La Rochefoucauld’s “Maxims” and La Bruyère’s “Characters”.
Henri Androuet’s new cheese soon met with success. In the decades that followed, other cheese-makers began making cheeses according to “the Androuet recipe”, using the name “Brillat-Savarin” which had become indissociable from this incomparable cheese. The name became widely used and was often found in well-known culinary publications then in dictionaries. Brillat-Savarin soon became an essential component of the cheese trolleys of all the great restaurateurs, and in the homes of food-lovers. It was (and still is) the cheese of gourmets who are looking to end their meal on a soft, creamy note.
Brillat-Savarin production was given a new boost in the 1970s, in France and in the rest of the world, with exports to Germany, Belgium, England and North America.
Following on from this success, production could have spread to other dairy regions, but the know-how was rooted in its current territory and, in the years 2000, this allowed the network to develop and secure its methods by drawing up an ambitious set of specifications.
Brillat-Savarin was awarded Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status in January 2017, the result of a collective desire to protect and promote a form of expertise that has been passed down through the generations.