More than 2000 farmers deliver milk to their designated dairy twice daily, morning and evening, for the production of Gruyère AOP. The average farmer has about 30 to 50 cows.The milk comes exclusively from cows that are fed grass in the summer and hay in the winter - produced on the farm itself or in the local area. No hormones are allowed. The milk used remains unpasterised – raw milk so it keeps all its original properties, flavour and nutrients.
There are more than 160 Gruyère AOP cheese dairies. The cheesemakers use their traditional know-how to turn the milk they receive each day into cheese wheels.
The cheesemakers are masters of their domain – each completes four years of specialized schooling to become “cheese masters”. Without their knowledge, experience, and skill, Gruyère AOP would be a completely different product.
The cheesemakers often work 7 days a week - many of them along with their wife - to produce Gruyère AOP. They sometimes have a small number of employees so they can have a few days off.
They begin their day at 5 in the morning, and finish the production in the middle of the day. They care for the Gruyère AOP as it matures in their cellars. At the end of the day, they take care of the arriving milk which usually comes around 7 in the evening.
After 3 months in the cheesemaker’s own cellar, the Gruyère AOP is delivered to a refining company.
Over the summer period from May to the start of October, about 50 alpine pastures make Gruyère d’Alpage AOP. The whole process takes place at the mountain pasture: the herd graze around the chalet where the cheese is produced and the evening and morning milk is combined to make the cheese on-site. A wood fire is used to heat the milk and the wheel is pressed using a cloth. Next, the affineur takes charge of the wheel so it can undergo the same journey as its sisters from the village dairies. Alpine production, with its ancestral roots, relies on the considerable know-how of the family farming structures in place.
There are 11 Gruyère AOP affineurs. The affineur takes care of the Gruyère AOP for several months. They know how to choose the best wheels for making more characterful varieties. Le Gruyère AOP doit être âgé de 5 mois minimum avant de pouvoir être commercialisé.
The wheels are in the hands of the master refiners for months. They are cared for in humid caves which help develop their inimitable character. The process takes place at a temperature of between 12 and 18 degrees celsius, with a relative humidity of about 92%. While each wheel is cured, it is regularly turned and cared for with salted water. This not only protects the qualities of Gruyère AOP, but also allows it to travel around the world to reach our loyal customers.
Every wheel of Gruyère AOP is unique. The weather, the geographical location of the farm, the cheese dairy, the know-how of the cheese-maker and the refiner. As a result, these differences can all subtly influence the process. The atmosphere in Gruyère AOP cellars diffuses a light smell of ammonia - a sign of healthy cheese maturation. Some wheels will be at their best at 6 months, and some others at 16 months. The affineur must therefore use his experience to fully exploit the potential of each individual wheel.
The affineur uses all of his senses to ensure that each piece of Gruyère AOP is at its very best for the consumer.