In a world in which many cheeses are easy to eat, this one is especially pleasing and delightful. I practically dare anyone not to like it. (A cheese gauntlet.) And, yet, it’s by no means bland. In fact, it’s quite flavorful — sweet and nutty, with hints of caramel, vanilla and flowers. The flavors are not bold or overpowering; Rather they are subtle and complex. The taste lingers nicely in the mouth, and even invokes a little extra tang after a moment. The Comté has a great mouth feel, too. It’s buttery, without being overly soft. This all makes for a very likable package.
A true terroir cheese, Comté is made by the Les Trois Comptois cheesemakers in the Jura mountains of eastern France, an area of rolling hills and plateaus on the Swiss border that is also known for its wines. (The region is also called the Franche-Comté.) The Comté is one of the 40 or so (out of 500) French cheeses which get to bear the designation, “AOC”, or “Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée”. This means that the cheese was made in a specific region, using local cows and codified production methods. It’s fun to know that those were Jura Mountain flowers I was tasting.
The Comté has certainly earned its AOC: It’s an ancient cheese that’s been in production since the time of Charlemagne. It’s made from the milk of just two types of cow — Montbeliarde and Tachete de L’est. And it endures a long maturing period (called “affinage”), in which it is cleaned and rubbed with salted water.
Comté makes a great nibbling cheese, or a welcome addition to a cheese plate. It works with a variety of nuts and fruits. A Jura wine would make an excellent pairing. Short of that, a dry white or a light red, like a Beaujolais, would be lovely.
Photo by Susan Sachs Lipman