Written June 6, 2013
La Grande Visite, a somewhat, dare I say, “cheesy” tour of the Société caves in Roquefort, was worth the visit if only to watch the French acting so very French. The tour, all in French, takes about an hour and includes a tasting at the end. They start with a “dramatic” presentation using an animated model of the town and surrounding countryside to re-create, complete with thunder and lighting, the collapse of the mountain that formed the famed Roquefort caves. Next is a video, or rather infomercial, of the Société Roquefort cheese making process followed by a light show on the cave walls recounting the fabled discovery of the Roquefort process.
Finally we tour the caves where our guide explains in fast, heavily accented southern French the AOC-regulated process used to produce Roquefort. The discussion then turns to the final packaging of the product where an intense discussion ensues – the French all talking at once – concerning the consumption and storing of Roquefort. The discussion lasts so long the tour guide is forced to skip the museum (not necessarily a bad thing) and continue on to the tasting room before it closes. Once in the tasting room the French park themselves in front of the three sampling trays, again, heavily engrossed in conversation completely ignoring the rest of the crowd wanting a wee taste.
Other than rows of cheese aging, very little of the actual production process is visible. I would, therefore, recommend the tour only for those who understand French and are very interested in the process of making Roquefort cheese or those who are just looking for a cool activity on a hot summer day – the cave remains a chilly 50-55° year round.