Thank you for choosing to discover how Comté has become the prestigious, delicious cheese that it is today.
For more than ten centuries, villagers of Jura Massif, Eastern France have lovingly crafted a unique and delicious cheese: Comté. This stunning region of mountains stretches between Jura and Doubs in the Franche-Comté region, and Ain in the Rhones-Alpes region, and is home to over 3,000 family farms dedicated to producing the highest quality of raw milk that is required to create Comté cheese. Today it is not only loved by millions of people in France, but all over world.
The stunning Massif du Jura where Comté is created is made up of a medium-sized mountain range that formed during the Jurassic period. Great plateaus of altitudes can be seen, ranging from between 500 and 1,500 metres. Intersected amongst this amazing rugged landscape are lush green valleys and crystal clear rivers generously stocked with fish.
The Jura Massif region clearly changes with the seasons and is a desirable place to explore. With Comté farms, fruitières and maturing cellars, the original Routes du Comté network have lots of places open for visitors.
Comté is characterised and loved for its surprising aromatic richness. That’s because we don’t get our milk from just anywhere. A prestigious cheese like Comté requires excellent milk, which is why Comté cows are authorised exclusively from the Montbéliarde and French Simmental breeds. With each cow given a whole hectare of pasture land in the summer months, they are free to feed on a delicious natural grass diet.
As autumn draws to an end, the cows return to the stable where they can feast on locally harvested hay, both of which help to maximise Comté’s delicious aromatic potential. Any fermented feed such as sileage is prohibited because it adversely affects the quality of the milk which is used raw. Comté has also refused GMOs and presents all guarantees in respect of the product.
Due to its distinctive nature, cultural value and economic importance for the region, Comté was deservedly granted Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) status in 1958. This ensures that Comté follow a large set of stringent rules and requirements which guarantee the specificity of their unique cheese. The Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée also guarantees that the production of Comté remains based on traditional methods and stages which have been in place for over 1,000 years.
You could say that it acts as a contract between farmers, fruitières, affineurs and their customers to maintain the taste and natural character of Comté.
This prestigious status was further recognised in 1996 when Comté was awarded the exclusive Protected Origin Nomenclature (AOP) status which recognises and rewards Comté’s remarkable reputation throughout the whole of Europe, and not only in France.
Today, Comté’s methods of production are still based on the original co-operative approach and artisan traditions that it was founded on over 1,000 years ago. Each day it is lovingly crafted in around 153 small village cheese dairies known as fruitières. Often situated in the heart of the village, each fruitière continues to receive milk from dedicated dairy farms situated within an 8 mile radius to guarantee its absolute freshness.
Every single day the time-honoured ritual repeats itself, from the part-skimming of the milk and warming of the copper pots to creating the curd and pressing out to remove excess liquid. The freshly made wheels are then preripened for a few weeks before being moved to one of the 16 maturing cellars. Here the affineurs look after them for 4 to 18 months or more; regularly turning, salting and rubbing each one with brine solution.
Over time a crust appears and every Comté wheel develops its unique smooth texture, rich colour and delicious range of flavours. To maintain this natural process, the exclusion of additives and colourings at any stage of the process still applies today, as do strict rules preventing changes in the milk production.
Comté takes time to acquire its taste. Once the milk has been skimmed and pressed, it is stored in a maturing cellar for at least 4 to 18 months, or more to gain its full spectrum of delicious flavours. Nutty, creamy, fruity, peppery and toasty are just some of the notes you will come to love. After 4 months each round is tested and marked on its taste and shape.
Those scoring over 14 points are given the green band representing excellent quality. Rounds given between 12-14 points will be given a brown band. And rounds that score less than 12 are excluded from carrying the official label. Only the best will do when it comes to putting Comté on your plate.
Comté cheese is adored by respected and revered chefs all over the world. With its array of delicious flavours, Comté’s a perfect addition to so many mouth watering dishes. Its ability to melt easily means it can be added to all kinds of recipes, giving every single one of them a naturally unique flavour.