by Kayleigh Thomas
Comté cheese, made in the Franche-Comté region of France, is one of the most popular cheeses in France. This cheese in known for its nutty, buttery flavor. Additionally, because it melts very easily and is very creamy when melted, Comté is often used in fondues. Because Comté is not easy to find in the United States, many have compared the taste to a mild Gruyère or Fontina and use these as substitutes. This hard, long-lasting cheese is a perfect addition to a cheese tray, homemade fondue, potato gratin or a gourmet burger.
The process of making Comté is extremely specific, which is one reason for the multitude of complex flavors. After the cheese is put in a mold, it matures in special cellars for anywhere between four months to two years. In 1958, Comté became one of the first cheeses to receive AOC (Appellation d’origine contrôlée) certification. This means that cheese made similarly outside of the Franche-Comté region cannot be legally called Comté cheese. Additionally, there are regulations on the production and sale of Comté. The best wheels of this cheese are given a green label and can bare the AOC honor whereas lesser wheels are given the inferior brown label and can be sold grated. Similarly, this cheese is only produced from the milk of a certain breed of cow, the “Montbéliarde”, because fat content is different with various breeds of cattle. By law, the cows must also be grass-fed because the alpine flora they consume imparts the taste of the local land on the milk. Therefore, Comté is well-known for its distinct terroir, or distinct features such as smell and taste that it derives from the environment and traditional methods of it’s production.
You can learn all about this artisanal cheese, terroir and the AOC system on a Culinary Immersion Sojourn during which you get to visit: the sub-alpine pastures to see what the cows graze on (and the beautiful views), a creamery to watch the cheese-making process, and a maturing cellar where you taste the difference that aging and seasons make on the flavor of the cheese.