In the Val-de-Travers, a benchmark Le Gruyère AOP cheese
Adrien Pagnier, much like Obélix, "fell into the cheese vat when he was a little boy". In his family, they have been cheesemakers for five generations.
In the Gruyere AOP sector, we must focus on excellence. That is where our strength and success lie!"
Adrien Pagnier, cheese maker Les Bayards/Duo Vallon
As children, he and his brother used to help out in the cheese dairy during their days off and holidays. "It was a job that attracted me. From just one basic ingredient, you can make a lot of things. It's a skill that is rich in perspective and creativity."
After obtaining his Federal Cheesemaker's Certificate, he started out as an apprentice. His vision was to become a milk buyer when the Bayards and Parcs dairies in Val-de-Travers (NE) merged. This merger and the construction of a new cheese dairy were already in the pipeline when he became an employee in the municipality.
In 2014, when the new Duo-Vallon cheese dairy was being built, he asked to be allowed to take part in the decisions. "The farmers included me in the project. I had already had the desire to work there for a long time; so I put my two cents in everywhere I could." The architect also involved Adrien in the options, so that his workplace would be as close as possible to his ideal.
The addition of a cellar was essential for Adrien Pagnier. It allows him to have complete management over the first three months of the ageing process for the 7,000 cheeses he produces annually. He is in control of the care he gives to his cheeses, the climate of the cellar and the frequency of changing the planks.
In 2021, for the second time, the Gruyère AOP from the Bayards cheese dairy won the annual competition for the best Gruyère AOP in Neuchâtel. "It's great publicity and it puts Neuchâtel Le Gruyère AOP in the spotlight!"
To earn this title, Mr. Pagnier is not alone. "It's a team effort: the nineteen milk producers, my employees and I are all links in the chain." With humility, he explains that "to make a good Le Gruyère AOP, it's a total package! You need good milk as a basic product, good farmers, good tools, good employees, a good cheesemaker and good communication!"
To compete for the Best Le Gruyère AOP in Neuchâtel, the average score for the taxation must be at least 19/20. Adrien Pagnier knows the evaluation process well, as he also participates as a cheese expert. "The requirements are very precise." According to him, the level of quality is such that to differentiate AOP Gruyères, the criteria are becoming increasingly strict. Penalties for lower production and competition from other cheeses are also a way of pulling everyone up and leaving no room for a lesser quality Le Gruyère AOP. "In the Gruyere AOP sector, we must focus on excellence. That is where our strength and success lie!"