Print

Leaving the shores of Lake Geneva, traveling to Gruyère and the Pays-d’Enhaut, is to climb the trail followed by men carrying cheese wheels over Jaman pass to Vevey, where the cheese was taken on ships to Geneva and Lyon, depending on the time period and military accords. In Lyon, the French Navy was an important buyer for a long time: on boats crossing the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, Gruyères cheese was an important protein source that would keep for the duration of the journey. From Léman (Lake Geneva) to the Pays-d’Enhaut and the Gruyère region, traveling this trail constitutes a geographic, as well as historical and thematic «return to the well.»

At the beginning of the 19th century, a famous travel guide described gruyère cheese as: The cheeses of Gruyères, known everywhere, are the best in Switzerland. They are transported to Germany, Italy, France, Holland, America and as far as the Oriental Indies. In certain homes, families keep enormous family cheese wheels, sometimes a century.

 

One cheese, two AOP

The history of gruyère starts in the 15th century. If cheese was made before, it was following other often more simple recipes. The recipe for gruyère requires specialists, because it is a hard cheese and its fabrication requires rennet.

Even though the entire region relied on the same alpine economy, today there are many differences between the Pays-d’Enhaut and the Gruyère.

Differences between east and west: two regions which are close in proximity but very distinct (the Pays-d’Enhaut vaudois and the Gruyère fribourgeoise). Differences between low and high: valley floors vs alpine farms, wood houses vs chalets, sedentary life vs transhumance. Or differences between pooling efforts and dispersion: some combine their milk in village dairies and age their cheeses in communal cellars, while others make their cheeses independently on alpine farms using artisanal methods.  Differences in marketing, which lead to two distinct AOPs: L’Étivaz and Le Gruyère (which is further divided into Gruyère made in villages and Alpage (alpine) Gruyère). Tasting and learning about these cheeses reveals their similarities and what makes them unique: similar fabrication processes often result in different flavors and colors. Such nuisances can be attributed to the differences in grasses where the cows graze: tasting these cheeses, thus, evokes the feeling and flavor of the region.

 

Some dates