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Apr 18, 2011 02:32 AM

The Best Hard Cheese in France, is GASP, from Switzerland [moved from France]

For years l have been extolling the 4 year Comte from both Dubois in Paris and the similarly aged one from Monsieur Antony in Alsace. They are superlative cheeses, rich in flavor with an excess of 'grana' and texture like candy. Well guys, there is a new gunslinger in town. Last night at a dinner of chowhounds, there was served a Gruyere des Alpages. Cows fed on only spring pastures, it is a similar story to Beaufort des Alpages from the French side of the Alps mountains. This cheese was a revelation, what l sell in the USA is a 2 year cave aged gruyere that now has exited my fav cheese list to be replaced by this worthy newcomer. It is everything a cheese should be and rarely is. This specimen was purchased at Beillevaire on rue des Martyrs in the 9th and was the most expensive cheese l have seen in Paris, but worth it.

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    1. re: Roland Parker

      At Beillevaire? I think it was under or near 40 euro/kilo. Will check it later in the week.
      In the marchés de producteurs, it could get up to, gulp, around 50.

      1. re: Parigi

        Was just there. The gruyère d'alpages is slightly under 28 eur/kilo, at 27.88 eu/kilo, something like that. Really not a bad price. We paid a lot more than that in a marché de producteurs.
        Unfortunately I was with a friend who is a real cheese-locust. If you go today, you will find no, I repeat, no, gruyère d'alpages left. All my fault.

    2. Can you get this in the New York? I saw that Formaggio Kitchen had something called a Gruyere Alpage; what would be the difference? Except of course Paris, company while eating, freshness etc. Would this be the 2-year?

      1 Reply
      1. re: t14072

        Not necessarily a 2-year-er, but a gruyère d'Alplage all the same !

      2. cue for sighs of cheesy ecstasy, in sympathy with Delucacheesemonger: Gruyère d'alpage is a slice of heaven. It's made up on the alp during the summer months from the milk (raw, natch) of the animals that graze up there from May-September. They've just gone up, we've had a spectacular spring and the pastures are already on the move. Cheese is made in the chalet 'dairy' (grand word: it's kind of the front room of the chalet) in a copper vat over a wood fire, briefly aged at the chalet and then sent down to the valley for final maturing in cool cellars. Of all the cheeses covered in my soon-to-be-pub. book on Swiss farmhouse cheeses, this is the one that really pushes the buttons for me: goût de noisette/nutty flavour, finely balanced acidity, a hint of wood smoke, more assertive flavour than ‘regular’ Gruyère, feistier and more complex plus an agreeably crunchy dimension from the tiny salty protein crystals that punctuate the smooth flesh.

        Alpine Gruyère is always a bit more expensive than lowland Gruyère (interesting to see prices in Paris cheese shop), a reflection of its higher production costs, short season and sheer scarcity but I think it's worth it: you get more flavor bangs for your bucks and you’re buying into a whole way of life, helping to sustain a timeless practice that preserves the alpine landscape, provides small-scale rural employment and culminates in one of the world's great cheeses.

        pics and an a/c of a visit to one of the makers of this wondrous cheese at:

        Oh and have you also tried L'Etivaz, close relation of Gruyère made in the Pays d'Enhaut (around Chateau d'Oex), also only during summer months, a little smaller in dimensions but a match in terms of its huge flavour?

        6 Replies
        1. re: Sue Style

          One of my children's favorite summer outings when they were little was to hike up to the dairy farm in the Ovrannaz mountains in Valais (where their father and grandparents are from and where their great-grandmother herded the cows as little girl before the war). They would help stir the fresh raw milk in the giant copper vat with the sound of cow bells ringing out. The old farmer would let them choose a round, mark it with our family name, and put it on a shelf to age. He would then give each of the children a portion of serac (a fresh whey cheese) that we would distribute with our pic-nic lunch later in the day.

          We would go up at the end of the summer when the cows were being brought down from the mountain to retrieve our marked cheese and have half of it that night served as raclette with our close friends. We would eat in the garden if it was still warm enough or in the carnotzet (a room in the cellar for drinking wine and eating cheese) if it was a bit frosty. This was always my favorite raclette of the year - you could taste the goodness of summer in each melty bite.

          I do love the Gruyère d'alpage, but my heart rests with the raclette from Valais. Delucacheesemonger you should seek this out as well if you have not tried it as it too is very different from the raclette cheese you normally find.

          1. re: marsprincess

            l have been trying for the 'super' raclette for years. The American disributor for Emmi promised me a wheel twice but never delivered. It is still one of my two unsatisfied cheese quests. Etivaz l used to sell, was too salty for me in comparison. Ideal cheese shop started importing it at least 20 years ago.

            1. re: Delucacheesemonger

              I need to be in Paris in June for a meeting, so maybe we can organize a cheese drop-off. Not the same as importing it I know, but you could still get a little taste of the Alps from Valais heaven. :-)

              1. re: marsprincess

                How sweet of you, but l leave on Memorial Day weekend, back in September though. Contact me on my info page.

              1. re: Parigi

                Thank you - Switzerland really is a bit of a fairy tale. I have lived here for 20 years and still am in love with the beauty of this country. David Lebovitz has been coming to my town, Lausanne a lot lately and really captures some of the best part of this area on his blog posts: