To us cheese nerds, Comté can become an obsession.
Perhaps best described as a French Gruyѐre, Comté seems to display a wider range of flavors than just about any other cheese we sell, and we enjoy delving into the nitty-gritty details of each wheel: its age, the location of the co-operative where it was made, and even the weather at the time the cows were milked.
We buy Comté from Fromageries Marcel Petite, where our cheesebuyers head a couple times a year. We taste and choose the specific wheels of cheese that we import from the affineur and, eventually, sell in our store. Though we often get carried away with the factual details of each wheel, the folks at Marcel Petite are eager to shift the focus from a wheel’s “stats” to its “character.”
At the recent Salon du Fromage in Paris, Marcel Petite encouraged tasters not to think about each cheese’s “vintage,” but rather the “spirit” of the cheese. Where and how should this sort of Comté be enjoyed? Is this a Comté for breakfast? (Think Les Granges, one of our younger, milder and fruitier Comtés.) Or is this cheese perhaps better just before dinner with some salami and cornichons? (Try Fort Saint-Antoine, an older, slightly nuttier wheel.) Maybe you’d like a cheese to savor on its own, taking some time to work through its complex flavors. (Grand Cru, a special cheese that we get in limited quantities – strong, nutty, onion-y, with a crystallized texture.)
These questions often hover in the back of our minds when we taste cheese. Though we will always be obsessed with the specific details of cheesemaking, it still felt like a victory to be able to use our own cheese-eating scenarios as a way to interpret the subtleties of each bite.
For more on our visits to Fromageries Marcel Petite, click here.