Cheese of the Week: Comté Raw Milk Gruyere

comte

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

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2 Responses to Cheese of the Week: Comté Raw Milk Gruyere

  1. Not sure if this is actually true or not, but I’ve heard that Comté is the most popular cheese in France. Lord knows I’ve seen enough kinds of it, with four regional types — with different descriptions of the flavor — in the local supermarket under their own label alone.

    However…I’d forget calling it Gruyère. That’s a whole nother ball of, um, cheese.

  2. Thanks for visiting, Ed. It’s nice to see you here. And good to get a perspective from France. I could see why the Comté would be hugely popular. I would think it would be reasonably priced, as well. I didn’t know there were many varieties — what delectable decisions await!

    Thanks for the heads-up on the Gruyere designation. I’ve seen the Comté referred to as a gruyere, as well as not. And I’ve seen it differentiated from a Swiss gruyere. It may be a gruyere-type, much as the Mossfield Farms was a gouda-type cheese.

    I hope you’ll continue to report in with cheese news and perspective. Weren’t you in Germany for some time? Any especially recommended German cheeses?

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