French “Gruyère” cheese obtained its Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) designation on December, 4th 2012.. The cheese is milk-based cheese made in Savoie and Franche Comté (near the Alps mountains in eastern France).
History of Gruyère:
The method for making Gruyère cheese dates back to the Roman period in the north of Italy. From the 15th century, the word “vachelin” was used to designate this type of cheese, which seems to be the ancestor of “Gruyère.” Around 1700, the word “vachelin” is completed by the expression “Gruyère style.” Two hypotheses exist to explain the origin of the word “Gruyère”:
• The origin of this word would be the village of Gruyères, located in the foothills of Préalpes de Fribourg, Switzerland.
• The origin of this word would be related to “gruyers,” the name for tax collectors who used to operate on both sides of the frontier between France and Switzerland, withdrawing taxes on the mountain’s products, such as cheeses and timber. Indeed, several places in the departments of Doubs, Jura and Savoie include words like “gruyers,” “gruyerie,” etc…
At the beginning of the 19th century, the word “vachelin” began to fall out of use and was replaced eventually by “Gruyère.”
Some facts about French “Gruyère”:
The French “Gruyère” is a milk-based cheese made in Savoie and Franche Comté. It bears a cooked, pressed texture, of which the round piece has an average weight of 88 lbs. The round piece’s height is between 5.1 and 6.3 inches for a diameter between 20.9 and 24.8 inches. During production, the cheese develops holes, which vary in size. During maturation, it develops a pleasant strong and fruity taste. Its ideal consumption period runs from June to December, after eight to 12 months of maturing.
The geographical zone of production stretches from Haute-Saône’s plateau in the North to Savoie in the South.
The milk dedicated to Gruyère’s production comes only from dairy herds composed of Abondance, Tarentaise, Montbéliarde, Vosgienne and French Simmental breeds of cows.
France’s Gruyère designation must not be mistaken with its Swiss homonym. The international Stresa Convention on cheeses in 1951 recognized the word “Gruyère” as both a French and Swiss property, both countries possessing the right to use it.
This recognition in PGI allows the preservation of a cultural and gastronomical heritage. Previously, only the Swiss “Gruyère” could claim a geographical designation. The distinction between the two cheeses, apart from their place of production, is based on whether the cheese has holes. The French Gruyère is the only kind to present this characteristic.