- Comté is an ancient cooked and pressed cheese made from raw milk. A wheel weighs about 80 lbs and measures 3 ft in diameter.
- Comté is made in the Jura Massif of France, a region of medium-elevation mountains that covers the départements of the Jura and Doubs in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region, and the départment of Ain in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region.
- Montbéliarde and French Simmental cows are the only breeds authorized to produce the milk for Comté. The cows graze in vast pastures from spring to autumn, and eat local hay in the winter. All fermented feed is banned from their healthy diet.
- There are about 2,500 small dairy farms that produce Comté milk. Producing a high-quality milk is vital for the expression of flavors and aromas in Comté.
- Comté is handmade every day by artisans in about 150 small village cheesemaking facilities, known as fruitières.
- It takes time for Comté to develop its taste. It is aged in maturing cellars for at least 4 months at a minimum, but aging can last up to 8, 12, 15, 18, 24 or more months. Comté is characterized by its complex aromatic richness. It is not a cheese with a uniform taste. Each wheel of Comté reveals a distinct aromatic composition that varies according the micro-region where it was produced, the local microflora, the season in which the cheese was made, the distinctive style of the cheesemaker, the cellar where it was matured… In this respect, Comté is truly a unique cheese.
- Rich in phosphorous, calcium, minerals and protein, Comté is a valuable food whose nutritional contents are useful in maintaining a balanced diet. Made with no additives or artificial colorants, and controlled at each level of production, Comté is a pure, healthy and natural food.
Comté’s Appelation of Origin (AOC/PDO)
Comté is the highest consumed AOC/PDO cheese in France. (About 1,600,000 wheels are produced every year. Because it’s an artisanal cheese, production can vary from year to year.)
Each cow that produces milk for Comté must have a minimum of 2.5 acres (1 hectare) of natural pastureland to graze.
The area designated by Comté’s Appellation of Origin stretches across 3 départements in the Jura Massif—Doubs, Jura and a part of Ain—with an elevation of 1,500-4,500 feet.
The average maturing time for Comté is 8 months. The maturing time ranges from 4 months (the legal minimum) to 12, 18 or even 24 months and more!
Each fruitière, or cheesemaking facility, must collect milk from dairy farms located within a 16-mile (25 km) diameter maximum.
A wheel of Comté weighs 80 lbs on average, with a diameter of 3 ft and a “heel” (thickness) of 4 in.
It takes about 100 gallons of milk to make one wheel of Comté. Since one Montbéliarde cow produces about 5.3 gallons of milk in two milkings daily, it takes the milk of 20 cows to produce one wheel of Comté.
Comté was one of the first cheeses to obtain AOC designation, in 1958.
Altogether, over 10,000 jobs are created by Comté.
There are approximately 150,000 cows that produce the milk for Comté (95% Montbéliarde breed and 5% Simmental breed).
The area occupied by Comté dairy farms is about 270,000 hectares (1,042 square miles), which is less than the size of the state of Rhode Island, making it the largest area of production for any PDO cheese in France.