Comté: Behind the Rind
Comté is France’s most popular cheese. And rightly so! A favourite of ours too, each wheel must pass 20 stringent rules to earn the Comté seal of approval - the green bells. The First rule of Comté is that milk must come from Montbéliarde cows. Each cow must have at least one hectare of fresh grass to feed on each day during the summer, dried hay from the farm during winter...if this has you intrigued, we urge you to read Reinventing the Wheel by Bronwen and Francis Percival.
Comté is produced in cooperation – each farmer supplies their milk to a local dairy or fruitière within a day of milking, to make the wheels of cheese. After a maximum of four days, the fresh wheels are taken by an affineur (AKA cheese whisperer), who will proceed to age it in their caves for a minimum of four months, right up to four years.
In our cheese cellar, at any given time we’ll have multiple wheels of Comté at different ages from France’s oldest affineur – Rivoire-Jaquemin. Right now we’ve got Réserve produced in May 2018, the youngest and lightest in flavour. This particular wheel has a very smooth paste and carries flavours of fresh grass, salted caramel and raw nuts.
Perhaps the pride of our maturation cellar is our Grande Réserve produced in August 2017. More brittle, flecked with intensely flavoured tyrosine crystals (those magic, crunchy little crystals we love so much!). The flavour here is more intense – cooked leeks, burnt butter and toasted sesame all linger on the palate.
Nutty style wines pair excellently with Comté, the holy grail is Jura’s coveted Vin Jaune. But if you can’t get your hands on that, Comté loves chardonnay with some lees aging. This gives ripe fruit additional layers of texture, weight and power to match alongside this gorgeous alpine cheese.
The 2018 Manoir du Carra Bourgogne Chardonnay $30 is great with a hunk of Réserve.
For the Grande Réserve, we’ve chosen something for you inspired by mountain DNA from across the alpine chain. Cantina Tramin in Italy’s Alto Adige, produce a special pinot grigio bottling from their best growers. Their 2016 Unterebner is $39.
We're also put together the Comté Club Pack so you can enjoy a slice of cheese, a bottle pinot grigio and read up on your favourite wheels.