A truly iconic cheese, Comte is a French mountain cheese with a history of over 1000 years of devoted production. This Comte (pronounced "Con-tay") is aged for more than 1 year, resulting in a masterpiece.
This firm cheese has a full spectrum of delicious flavors: nutty, creamy, fruity, brothy, and meaty. The body is satiny smooth and ivory-colored. French Comte comes from a centuries-old recipe, also known as Gruyere de Comte. It has been produced since the reign of Charlemagne, when there were no separate entities named France and Switzerland. Although Swiss Gruyere may be better known, this similar cheese from the French side of the border is equally marvelous.
Only raw milk from Montbeliard and French Simmental breeds of cattle are authorized to use in Comte production, which is strictly regulated by the French government. After the milk is collected by villagers and made into cheese in Alpine dairies called 'fruiteries.', the milk is warmed in copper pots, which encourages the good bacteria which develops the distinct flavor. The freshly made wheels are then pre-ripened for a few weeks before being moved a maturing cellars. Here the affineurs look after the wheels, that age on spruce boards; regularly turning, salting and rubbing each one with brine solution. Over time a rind develops and every Comte wheel develops its unique smooth texture, rich color and delicious range of flavors.
A full wheel of Comte weighs about 80 pounds. Every year around 1.2 million wheels are produced, for which around 100,000 cows are working hard. Working hard for these cows means meandering across Alpine fields, grazing on tender mountain grasses.
Comte is one of the best cheeses to eat, as its flavor is so complex and satisfying. It also melts like a dream - ideal for cooking. Comte goes well with white wines that accentuate its rich nutty flavor. Try Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer or Dry Riesling. For red wine try a lighter fruity Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. Sparkling Wine is great for special occasions.