Country of Origin: France
Milk-type: Unpasteurized Cow’s milk
Likely the most famous and celebrated firm cheese to ever emerge from France: Comté, like Champagne and like many other historically significant French cheeses, carries a fiercely protected name and the many specifications of manufacture that come with it. Comté cheese is made exclusively from the unpasteurized milk of Montbéliarde or French Simmental cattle (or mixed breeds of the two), fed only fresh, natural feed; in the traditional province of Franche-Comté in Eastern France. The region is famous for its unique and distinctive terroir which, as in the case of winemaking, is believed to produce milks and cheeses with a singular bouquet of flavours that could not be replicated elsewhere.
Comté cheese, sometimes called Gruyère de Comté, is typical of the style of cheese traditionally produced in the mountainous regions of Western and Central Europe. Characterized by a unique nutty-sweet base flavour, semi-hard texture; and a well-rounded, bold, savoury body: cheeses of this type may range in taste from medium-strong to rather intense, in some cases developing a pronounced “spicy” sharpness as they ripen. Comté in particular has an especially nuanced and complex flavour, often expressing a variety of unusual and particularly cherished tasting notes in addition to the above qualities. Because of the very natural, traditional methods of manufacture used and the strong influence of the local terroir: no two wheels of Comté cheese taste quite alike.
A number of organizations, in fact, exist specifically to examine and grade wheels of Comté of a variety of ages and to identify these elusive and particular tasting notes—from the fruity and tangy, to herbal and floral; earthy, grassy, or woody. Each wheel, in addition to being described in its specificity, is awarded a score by a group of twenty inspectors, who evaluate the cheese’s overall appearance, rind, pate, texture, and taste. Wheels which do not receive a sufficiently high score are actually prohibited from carrying the name Comté and must instead be sold off for other uses.