WHAT IS GRUYERE?
This raw, cow’s milk cheese was awarded an A.O.C. (name controlled status) in 2001, thus preventing any of their neighbors from using the same name (hello French Comte or Greek Graviera). The milk is heated in large, copper vats. Rennet is added, and the curds are then chopped up and heated again. After the whey has been expelled the curds are molded and brined at their start of their 8 months or more of aging. The cheese has a nutty and fruity flavor which is distinctive due to the large size of the cheese.
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WHERE IS GRUYERE MADE?
These massive 80 lb wheels are regularly flipped during aging in the caves of Fribourg, Vaud, Neuchâtel, Jura, and Bern.
SWISS BRIDGE TOLLS A MILLENIA AGO – COUNTING WAS A PROBLEM
Once on a business trip to Switzerland in 1999, I asked a Swiss expert why the wheel sizes here were consistently so much bigger than cheese everywhere else in the world. Yes, a larger wheel yields a higher quality flavor. But 200 lb wheels of Emmenthaler are a nightmare to flip by hand. I was told that long ago in Switzerland, a land of many mountains and valleys, local villages would build a bridge and charge everyone who used it a toll. The toll was based on the number of items in your wagon. So if you had 10 wheels of cheese, each weighing 20 lbs, you paid 10 coins. But some clever farmers started making 1 wheel of cheese that paid 200 lbs. They only paid 1 coin for the 1 wheel. And so the arts of Swiss Gruyere/Emmenthaler production and tax evasion were born.
WHAT CAN I PAIR WITH GRUYERE?
Any dry Sauvignons, Chardonnays or bubbly whites like a Riesling are a safe bet. Some experts recommend Roses though I’m personally not a fan. With red wines Pinots or if a really aged Gruyere a Nebbiolo can hold up well. For Swiss themed cheese plates try a nice Appenzeller, Emmenthaler or Tilsiter cheese. If you want an alpine theme, a French Comte and an Italian Fontina Val d’Aosta could be a nice tour.