Saturday, July 16, 2016


So I have been studying up on what I have recently declared to be my favorite cheese, Gruyere (Groo-yehr), and much to my chagrin I have learned I have been quite wrong about a few things.  I have always thought there was an understanding between France and Switzerland that the cheese made on each side of the border could legitimately be called Gruyere.  After all, at the other end of the country, the Basque region overlaps the French-Spanish border with products from both sides using the Basque name.  But I guess that's regional branding as opposed to specific product branding, but you know what I mean.

As it turns out Gruyere is actually a village in Switzerland and after a three year court fight ending in 2001, they have won the naming-rights battle for their cheese.  French Comte, which I have been calling Gruyere for as long as I can remember, hasn't in fact been Gruyere for fifteen years.  Moreover, there are actually two other French cheeses from the Jura region of France that have also been called Gruyere in the past but now must be known as Beaufort and Le Brouere.  France is allowed to market Gruyere but it must have a different appearance (more holes) so as not to be confused with the Swiss standard.

Another factual tidbit I have learned is that Switzerland makes ten times the amount of Gruyere cheese that French Comte makes.  That would have to weigh heavily in a court case.  And Swiss Gruyere cheese has been so named since 1655!

Here's one more noteworthy factoid: Swiss Gruyere is the only cheese to be declared the "Best Cheese in the World" five times at the World Cheese Awards in London.  True to form in the new (August) Wine Spectator magazine, in an article on Comte they say it is "toothsome, nutty, sweeter, fruitier, and grassier" than the Swiss version which says to me they probably ought to stick to wine.

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