History of Gruyère AOC
The origins of the cheese name Gruyere date back to 1655 when gruière depicted the district of the canton of Fribourg in Switzerland where the cheese is made. Gruyere is a picturesque area in the alpine foothills with lush pastures which surround the lovely village of Gruyeres, a Medieval market place.
But let us now explore the origins of the famous cheese ...
The chronicle of the Charmey valley, where various Gruyere and alpine Vacherin cheeses have been produced and refined within living memory, mentions the presence of Celts, Helvetians and Romans in those areas. The Romans are well-known for their expertise in cheese production. One of the legends has it that the Emperor Antonin the Pious died of indigestion in 161 AD after having eaten too much cheese made in the Gruyere area.
From the early Middle Ages on local people have let their cows graze on these pastures for which they paid in cheese and sap sago.
Guillaume, the first Earl of Gruyere, together with his nephew canon Ulrich founded the Cluniac Priory of Rougemont. A charter set up in 1115 granted the Priory certain privileges like being supplied with cheeses produced in the Gruyere Alps. The abbey was supposed to provide the material: vats, sieves, cheese wheels ... In the alpine cottages the milk from the cow herds of Gruyere was made into cheese, but only during the growing season.
In Fribourg the cheese trade is said to have started in 1249. The sons of Rodolphe de Gruyere freed their subjects from Gessenay from the charter of 1115. They set up a document that mentions the production of a "fatty cheese" in those alpine areas for exports, which allowed people of that place to earn some money from their trade. Another document dated July 1328 also speaks of the Gruyere cheese: It was Earl Peter III's will.