Comté, (kom-TAY) means ‘county’ in French. It is made with unpasteurized cow’s milk that must be produced in Jura (Mountains in the East of France). The Comté is the first French cheese to have been given the AOC designation in 1958. This law was created to protect the cheese and its method of production with a ‘terroir’, in this case the Jura Mountains; assuming that it is thanks to the incredible variety of flowers, and the characteristic flora of the Franche-Comté that makes this cheese’s wideness of aroma so special. Even the breed of the cows is essential. Comté must undergo a rigorous grading process in accordance with the AOC rules. Those cheeses not making the grade are rejected and sold as (French) Gruyère.
Comté is arguably France’s most important cheese and has been produced for several thousand years Only the famous Montbéliarde, a red and white coloured breed from the Jura Mountains, and the Simmental, can provide milk for the production of Comté. These mountains breeds are hardy and can withstand the frequent cold nights outside during the summer pastures.
Comté is a firm pressed cheese made from the raw milk produced in small, cooperative dairies, known as “fruitières” which collect the milk from farms within a fifteen mile radiaus . Comté is the most popular DOP cheese in France, and it is claimed that there are more than 83 distinct flavours in Comté, including apricot, chocolate, butter, cream, and grilled bread.
Comté is a cheese of concentrated flavour, with brown-butter and roasted-nut aromas and a sweet finish. The taste of this cheese is variable depending on the age (anywhere from 4 – 18 months, and the season of the milk. It’s typically described as salty, mild, and fruity. Some cheese have strong hazelnut flavors, others have subtle hints of nutmeg.
Flavours aren’t the only delicious element of Comté. Because of its ability to melt easily it can be added to all sorts of mouth watering recipes and not just saved for the cheese board.
Jura wines from Comté’s home region are a classic pairing for this unique cheese, but other wines that have some texture and are of comparable intensity also enhance Comté’s unique flavour characteristics; a Palo Cortado or off-dry Amontillado sherry from Spain are perfect.