Affineur (Maturer) of Gruyère AOP, a family story!
It has been 135 years that the Margot family have been maturing wheels of Gruyère AOP. The adventure began in L’Auberson in 1886 when Jules Margot bought and matured his first hard cheeses to sell in his bazaar. Since then, the generations have followed suit. Today, Anthony and Gilles are in charge of Margot Fromages SA, the last family-owned private cheese maturing business still in activity.
“Gruyère AOP has many assets: Its history, the terroir, its demanding specifications, the labour and ties between producers, cheesemakers and affineurs.”
Anthony Margot, affineur
Currently, Margot Fromages SA matures 11% of the Gruyère AOP, of which 70% is sold in Switzerland and 30% abroad. “I like to defend this hard cheese”, declares Anthony Margot enthusiastically, “Gruyère AOP has many assets: Its history, the terroir, its demanding specifications, the labour and ties between producers, cheesemakers and affineurs. It must also be noted that its production has increased in large part thanks to the organisations put in place, such as the federal laboratories, the research facilities, the milking and manufacturing advisors, and the Interprofession du Gruyère (IPG).”
When the Gruyère AOP crosses the border, it becomes a luxury product. The further it travels, the more expensive it becomes. In fact, one must take into count the transport, the import taxes, the profit margins of the distributors and the market value. “However”, adds Mr. Margot, “I always tell my clients that Gruyère AOP is the caviar of Switzerland. When I go to Russia, several hours by plane from Moscow, my partners don’t have a cheese culture. I have to explain to them the value of our product and they’re very sensitive to that.”
Fortunately, Anthony Margot speaks a little Russian, allowing him to establish a relationship with them before evoking all the technical aspects and entering into a business discussion with the help of translators.
Additionally, exportation is an administrative hassle. “With the help of the IPG and Switzerland Cheese Marketing”, explains Anthony Margot, “we are always mindful of political decisions. We permanently battle against the administrative barriers, although they have always existed. I remember, at the beginning of the IPG, it was necessary to have veterinary certification in order to export to France, Germany and Italy. France had even decreed that Gruyère AOP could only cross the border at Geneva Bardonnet and at Basel customs points to ensure the veterinary controls. So, in order to sell our cheese in Besançon for example, we were unable to pass by Vallorbe, we had to bypass the Jura. With the European Union, that was simplified in 2005-2006”.
For about fifteen years, Margot Fromages attempted to export to China. The company undertook several initiatives to make Gruyère AOP known there, to create ties, find partners, but to no avail. “The Chinese had signed a free trade agreement with Switzerland, but it had so many complicated standards that it was impossible to adhere to. In 2020, we were finally able to export Gruyère AOP. I’m very proud of that because it’s a very important market. When the Chinese have the occasion to taste our hard cheese, they really appreciate it. I’m confident that in the future Gruyère AOP will be a delicacy appreciated by the connoisseurs of this immense country.”
Gilles Margot, Anthony’s brother, is involved in the structure of the IPG as Affineur Respresentative to the Committee and is a Member of the Board.