Interview. ISN Editor Riad Beladi In an exclusive interview with Denis Kaser, the International Head of Marketing at Le Gruyère AOP, provides a tantalizing glimpse into the world of this iconic Swiss cheese. From the picturesque Gruyère region
The art of cheese-making is a legacy deeply embedded in the picturesque landscapes of Switzerland, with roots dating back to the remarkable year of 1115. Today, this time-honored tradition persists, echoing through the pristine village cheese dairies of its birthplace – the enchanting district of La Gruyère in the Canton of Fribourg. However, the echoes of this culinary heritage reverberate beyond, reaching into the cantons of Vaud, Neuchâtel, and Jura, as well as gracing a select few municipalities of Bern.
Historical Tapestry: The year 1115 marks the inception of a craft that would weave its way into the very fabric of Swiss culture. The production of cheese in the region began as a testament to the resourcefulness of its inhabitants, who harnessed the pristine Alpine environment to create a dairy tradition that has endured over centuries.
La Gruyère’s Heartbeat: At the heart of this enduring legacy lies the district of La Gruyère, nestled in the Canton of Fribourg. It is here that the cheese dairies faithfully adhere to a well-tried recipe passed down through generations. The essence of La Gruyère’s cheese production is not merely a process; it’s a cultural rite that defines the community, connecting the past with the present.
Regional Spread: While La Gruyère stands as the cradle of this artisanal craft, its influence has spread far and wide. The cantons of Vaud, Neuchâtel, and Jura bear witness to the continuation of this tradition, each contributing its unique touch to the Swiss cheese legacy. Additionally, several municipalities of Bern partake in this time-honored process, preserving the authenticity and quality that define Swiss cheese.
Adherence to Tradition: The recipe guiding Swiss cheese production has weathered the test of time. Amidst technological advancements and changing culinary landscapes, the village cheese dairies remain steadfast in their commitment to the traditional methods that have been refined over centuries. It is this unwavering dedication to authenticity that elevates Swiss cheese to a pinnacle of quality and taste.
Congratulations on winning medals at the recent competition! Can you share more about the significance of these accolades for Le Gruyère AOP?
Le Gruyère AOP has been fortunate to have won a number of important awards, including 2022 World Champion Cheese from the World Champion Cheese Contest.
The awards Le Gruyère AOP has won are a testament to the hard work, dedication and love of the art shown by milk producers, cheese makers, affineurs, and everyone else involved in the process, from the 12th century to today.
Here are blogs with info about recent contests for your reference, with more at gruyere.com:
World Cheese Awards 2023
World Fondue Championship 2023
What sets Le Gruyère AOP apart from other cheeses, contributing to its success in competitions?
A lot of products are “handmade,” but the human element of crafting Le Gruyère AOP is truly special. Think of the farmers who raise and care for the cows, providing them a very specific, clean and healthy diet, the workers at production facilities who carefully heat the milk, stir it with their hands and ensure it begins the process properly, and the affineurs who check on the cheese as it ages to guarantee it is the perfect maturity and taste — there are real hands in the process. These people have been carefully trained, often carrying on the family trade for generations, and are invested in the product — they take pride in it.
Could you elaborate on the traditional methods and craftsmanship involved in producing Le Gruyère AOP that make it a standout in the industry?
See above, but I will add that the process for making Le Gruyère AOP has stayed true to its roots dating back to the year 1115. There is some — but minimal — machine involvement, and the Alpage variety is made entirely by hand, in a huge copper pot, atop the Swiss Alps. More about that here: https://www.gruyere.com/en/fabrication/le-gruyere-dalpage-aop
Were there any specific challenges faced during the production process leading up to the competition, and how were they overcome?
Not a challenge necessarily, but our biggest goal is to raise awareness about the cheese, its authenticity and history, and the importance Le Gruyère AOP plays in our culture.
How does Le Gruyère AOP maintain its commitment to traditional methods while also adapting to modern trends and consumer preferences?
The proof is in the pudding — or cheese in this case. Le Gruyère AOP’s recipe remains the same, the high standards are regulated and carefully protected, and the animals and craftspeople are treated fairly and with love. Simplicity is the key.
In the competitive landscape of artisanal cheeses, how does Le Gruyère AOP continue to innovate and stay relevant?
It’s real, it’s delicious, it has a story to tell and people continue to respond to and respect that.
Is there anything else you would like to share or any comments you would like to add about Le Gruyère AOP, its recent achievements, or its journey in the world of artisanal cheese? Feel free to share any insights, anecdotes, or thoughts that you believe would be interesting for our audience.
Le Gruyère AOP cheese is the best because of the people who continue to work hard to make it the best. That is essential.
Could you elaborate on whether Gruyère cheese typically features small holes or eyes during its production?
Le Gruyère AOP actually does not have holes — it has calcium crystals, which give it a unique bite — they almost “pop” in the mouth and make for a memorable eating experience.
Are there variations in the appearance of Gruyère cheese, with some countries we find Gruyère with holes while others without ?
It is important to note that Le Gruyère AOP is a regional product — meaning that the cheese made in the Gruyères region of Switzerland is the only authentic Gruyère cheese, similar to products like Champagne or Parmigiano Reggiano. Other locations may work to replicate Le Gruyère AOP, but the air, earth, cows/diets are what make it what it is, and the geography is unlike any other place in the world.
In certain regions, there seems to be a practice of referring to any cheese with holes as Gruyère. Can you provide insights into this naming convention and how it aligns with the characteristics of authentic Gruyère cheese?
See above – Le Gruyère AOP (the true Gruyère) can only be produced in the Gruyères region in Switzerland. Others may be called Alpine-style, etc., but they are different from the original Le Gruyère AOP, which dates back to the 12th century.