WHAT IS BEAUFORT?
The Swiss have long been renowned for monster-sized cheeses. But their Alpine neighbors, the Savoie French, were not to be outdone. They created the raw milk cheese Beaufort. One wheel can easily weigh close to 100 lbs. And of course being La France, Beaufort is creamier and richer (having a higher fat content than its Swiss cousin Gruyere). Depending on when the animals were milked there are three natural rind versions – d’été (summer), d’hiver (winter) and Chalet d’Alpage (summer milk from specific chalets). About 60 gallons of milk is poured into a copper kettle, which eventually yields 1 wheel of fromage. The Beaufort is then aged on shelves made of Spruce wood for 6 to 12 months. From there, it makes the long journey to retail store shelves and then your belly.
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WHERE IS BEAUFORT MADE?
The traditional French A.O.C. version of this cheese is made in the Savoie region of the Alps. Tarine and Abondance mountain cows are milked daily in the areas of Maurienne, Beaufortain and the Tarentaise valley.
BEAUFORT IS ACTUALLY A GIANT, DAIRY PULLEY IN DISGUISE?
McCalman and Gibbons’ book The Cheese Plate states “Legend has it that Beaufort was made with concave sides to facilitate winding a rope around its sides. All you had to do was sling a wheel of it on one side of your horse or donkey, do the same thing with a second wheel on the other side, and you were ready to transport them on the steep mountain paths from chalet to market in pretty good balance.”
WHAT CAN I PAIR WITH BEAUFORT?
For this phenomenal cheese look to a nice red Burgundy wine, a fruity Syrah or piquant Cabernet Sauvignon. The salt crystals in this fromage provide a pleasant “pop” of flavor when paired with a good wine. Even a Chardonnay with a lot of character can work well. For cheese tours, I’d play with textures here but keep it classy. A beautiful tranche of Roquefort along with a goat’s milk Chevrot could be quite nice! If that is too much flavor, substitute a French double creme brie (not too young) for one of them. If you’d like to take an alpine cheese tour, most Swiss cheeses outside of Gruyere will work well along with a nice Italian Fontina.