It doesn't look like much. It's a brownish-orangish natural rind wheel measuring 3-4" tall and sixteen or so inches across. It weighs thirteen pounds and never has a label on it. Like I said, it doesn't look like much. Just another wheel of cheese.
It does look Swiss though. Or maybe I've just been selling it so long I've decided that's what Swiss cheese should look like.
Gruyere is, of course, my favorite cheese. It's not only the greatest cheese of Switzerland, in worldwide competitions it wins accolades from experts as "The Best Cheese in the World." Gruyere wheels are HUGE so Raclette is a far cry from that so I still don't understand why I think Raclette looks Swiss.
Raclette (rock-LET) is a semi-hard, unpasteurized Alpine cow milk cheese. It's aged 3-6 months so you could say it's like a softer milder Gruyere. Like Gruyere it has historically been made on both sides of the French-Swiss border and like Gruyere, eighty percent of Raclette originates in Switzerland.
Written references to the cheese go back to convents in the 12th century. It was considered to be a peasant cheese. The name Raclette comes from the French word "racier" which means "to scrape." Peasants would position the cheese next to a fire to soften it before scraping it onto bread. From those humble beginnings Raclette evolved into a melting cheese over potatoes, which led to gherkins, onions, other vegetables and eventually, dried meats. For people in the know, using the Raclette scraping apparatus makes all the difference in the finished meal.
Savoie, France is on one side of the border; Valais, Switzerland is on the other. That area is ground zero for Raclette. The closest fine wine region is the Rhone Valley and if that place conjures images of big red wines you may be barking up the wrong tree. The locals pair this one with whites.