Aug 8, 2019

Castle for Sale: Tomme du Vernet


Have you ever dreamed of owning a castle in the French countryside? Of course you have. Well, for less than a small apartment in Paris, or London, or San Francisco, you can indeed be the proud owner of a real French castle. Several of my French friends have castles of their own. Sure, many of them inherited the castle from their ancestors, but that doesn't mean that even a nouveau-semi-riche Bourgeois can't own a piece of noble French history. We were lucky enough to stay at this small castle that our friend bought in the Loire Valley.

Just be careful what you wish for. Another friend's family owns an enormous chateau in Annecy. It's a 500+ room castle constructed between the 12th and 17th century, occupied by the same family for almost a thousand years now.

If 500 rooms sounds like too much to take care of, it is, but keep in mind that there's only one bathroom to clean. Yes, one. Remember that in the Middle Ages and Renaissance when it was constructed, bathrooms were not built into homes. And because of the historical significance of the castle, it's not like the French government will just allow them to modernize it willy-nilly. No bathrooms then means virtually no bathrooms now. Like many castles, in order to help finance the maintenance and renovations, they rent out for functions and also offer tours, which has the double benefit of keeping the patrimony accessible to the nation's people. I helped with the English translation of the children's tour for visitors to this castle, so that's my tiny contribution to its enormous upkeep!

So if and when you do buy your own little -- or not so little -- castle, make sure you check the facilities and the regulations about renovations, which are persnickety and varied. And, perhaps, don't go for 500+ rooms.

A recent look online shows quite a few castles for sale (following photos taken from real estate websites listed below) that are rather more reasonable in scale and work required:

Chateau Humbligny

16th and 18th century construction, 300  (around 3200 ft²), near Sancerres, 646,000 

Chateau Lavaur

18th century, 964m² (around 10,400 ft²)near Tarn, 745,000 

And at the other end of the price range:

Chateau Niort
parts as early as 15th century, 550 m² (around 6000 ft²), Deux-Sevres, 2,120,000 

Chateau Nantes
from Middle Ages to 19th century, 1600 m² (around 17,000 ft²), Nantes,  3,500,000 €

Many of these have, in fact, already been renovated and do have modern bathrooms and rather nice-looking kitchens. So even if your new home is 17th century, your facilities won't be. If you're really interested, or just enjoy falling down the online rabbit hole of real estate porn, there are literally thousands of castles for sale on these (and other) sites:

If you are like me, you will start clicking through and fantasizing about all the French castles you could buy and enjoy. Just don't get bogged down in details like taxes, renovation costs, furnishing costs, or what you would actually do there either for a job or on a day-to-day basis. Who cares what you'd be doing, because you'd be doing it in a French castle!


Tomme du Vernet is also called Tomme à la sauge du Vernet, and the critical part is actually "à la sauge" which means "with sage." The raw goats' milk hard cheese is rubbed and dried with sage forming an herby crust to complement the herbaceous interior. The interior is herbaceous because of the grassy diet of the Saanen breed goats who provide the milk, though the subtle hints are largely overpowered by the bold-flavored crust.

The cheese is aged in cellars directly under the Château de Vernet in the department of l'Allier, in the southeastern region of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes.

The texture is both chalky and creamy in the mouth, with the added texture of the dried sage.


Why Tomme du Vernet with a story of castles? There are several castles named Vernet to be found online (presumably because there are several towns throughout the country with Vernet in the name). And appropriately enough this one, the Château de Vernet-les-Bains, is currently for sale: http://www.leggettprestige.com/french-property-for-sale/view/62923HPO66/house-for-sale-in-vernet-les-bains-pyrenees-orientales-languedoc-roussillon-france

The cheese Tomme de Vernet is aged in the cellars of another Château de Vernet, located in l'Allier. 

Yet another Château de Vernet no longer exists, though there are pictures and postcards to prove it once did. Apparently, its disappearance is not well documented, and I found online a detailed essay about the mystery of the castle. The mystery is, quite simply, where did the castle go? The author spends about 2/3 of the essay explaining that the castle was not dismantled and reassembled stone by stone in the US and goes on to catalog all the practical reasons why not. Having never considered for a moment the idea that a castle would mysteriously disappear and then reappear in the New World, it seems like a lot of space to convince me of something I already believe. The author's research has led him to speculate that most likely the castle was dismantled to make way for the sports park that currently stands there, and that its stones can be found used to construct nearby buildings.

The explanation for Tomme du Vernet disappearing off the platter will be less mysterious: It's delicious, and people will eat it.


  1. The cheese looks fantastic. I have been enjoying the cheeses of California. Last night, I had a wonderful goat milk cheese with garlic and herbs.


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