Being in the cheese business, I'm often asked what my favorite cheese is and I always defer to the old "Oh, there are so many that I like" or some other dodge like that. Until now. Now I can say without hesitation that Gruyere (Groo-YAIR) is my favorite. One reason for that conclusion is that it marries so well with so many red wines. It's like a safe go-to cheese for most any wine occasion and it has only been recently that I have come to realize that.
Gruyere is more than one cheese, by the way. There is French Gruyere, or Comte (Com-TAY), and there is Swiss Gruyere and I suppose there may be more Gruyeres than that. There are also all of the other "Gruyere-like" cheeses out there, those that are either "Gruyere-lite" or "Gruyere-plus" in flavor. Switzerland seems to specialize in the latter.
Not surprisingly Comte comes from the Franche-Comte (Free Country) region in far east-central France abutting Switzerland. That region also contains the Jura wine appellation which probably means I need to try a Jura red with my Comte. As of this year Franche-Comte is now to be recognized as Bourgogne-Franche-Comte (Free Country of Burgundy) which is an acknowledgment of a fifteenth century relationship with Burgundy proper.
Morbier (MOR-bee-yay) is one of those Gruyere-like cheeses mentioned above. It wasn't until I did my homework for this post that I learned just how closely related they are. Morbier is actually the second cheese made by Comte cheese makers. Comte is made in ninety pound wheels. If you think about that, it would be a remarkable coincidence if you had just the right amount of curds prepared for those Comte wheels. More likely, I'm sure those Comte makers always had plenty of leftovers and those leftover curds were then pressed into smaller molds to become Morbier. And considering the Comte aging requirements because of its size, Morbier production worked just fine for cash flow purposes too.