The Tomme de Savoie PGI is a type of distinguished semi-soft cheese produced in the French Alps and in parts of Switzerland according to a demanding set of criteria. In France, the majority of these cheeses are made in the départements from which they derive their name, Savoie, and Haute-Savoie thanks to the milk of three local breeds of cattle: the Tarine, Abondance and the Montbéliarde. The rigorous standards of production for the Tomme de Savoie have been enumerated and protected by a European Protected Designation of Origin since 1996. This type of cheese, always made from raw milk, can be produced in several different manners and with varying levels of fat. Traditionally, each village in Savoie country has its own practices, within the confines of the production standards, which result in a remarkably varied, yet consistently quality product.

The Tarine cattle breed in the Alps of Savoie

The Tarine cattle breed in the Alps of Savoie

Like many of the great French cheeses, the Tomme de Savoie has a long and unique history that has played a crucial role in the evolution of the protected cheese of our day. For centuries, Savoie residents (“Savoyards”) developed the habit of making small, low-fat cheeses from the leftover cream used during butter production. The fruit of this resourceful practice came to be known in the local language as a tomme, denoting this special cheese made in the Alpine pastures, and its characteristics were as varied as the Savoyard villages were numerous. These days, the size and nature of the Tomme de Savoie has been standardized, but the PGI still allows producers to use their discretion regarding the fat content of the cheese as a salute to its traditional production methods. In fact, The Tomme de Savoie is the only PGI cheese whose fat content can range from 8% to 30% of the weight of the finished product. Since 2003, the Tomme de Savoie can be easily recognized by its grey, powdered crust on the side or top of which “Savoie” is clearly marked with a char-colored, edible ink.

Affinage

As to be expected, the taste of the Tomme de Savoie changes with the seasons and the differences in diet they provide to the Alpine cattle breeds. In general the cheese is protein-heavy and has a mild, nutty flavor comparable to that of Comté PDO. As a result, the Tomme de Savoie pairs wonderfully with fruits, cured meats and breads and either a medium-bodied red (Côtes du Rhône) or a sweeter white wine, such as an Alsatian Riesling (Link). The lower-than-normal fat content for cheese makes it an ideal cheese for baked dishes like lasagna or tartiflette.