The Gruyère d'Excellence Neuchâtelois selection is awarded to Le Gruyère AOP from la Chaux-du-Milieu

Le Gruyère AOP from the La Chaux-du-Milieu cheese dairy has won top honours in the 6th Gruyère d'Excellence Neuchâtelois competition. It was a gratifying first victory for cheesemaker Stéphane Menoud and Edouard Philipona, Chairman of the Dairy Cooperative.

25 Mar 2024
Around Le Gruyère AOP Contests

"It's a shared success, with my team and the 18 producers who supply their milk to the dairy"

Stéphane Menoud, cheesemaker at La Chaux-du-Milieu

Menoud and Philipona: "two very local names", as we would say in Gruyère. And yet it is in La Chaux-du-Milieu, in the mountains of Neuchâtel, that the two men are linked by their business. "I lived in the canton of Fribourg until the spring of 2003, before taking over La Chaux cheese dairy," says Stéphane Menoud. His childhood memories are of holidays spent in the mountains as a chalet boy. Introduced to making goat's cheese, he discovered a vocation that led him to apprentice as a cheesemaker and then to obtain his federal master's degree. It's a happy coincidence that on his 20th anniversary as head of the La Chaux cheese dairy, his Le Gruyère AOP was awarded the title of "Gruyère d'Excellence Neuchâtelois". "I'm proud that my work has been recognised. It's a shared success, with my team and the 18 producers who supply their milk to the dairy," he says.

A cooperative of values

In the mountains of Neuchâtel, the beauty of the rolling countryside and fir forests is combined with a kind of solitude and freezing winters. At first, Stéphane Menoud had to make his mark. Edouard Philipona, who arrived in the region as a toddler, wouldn't give it up for anything: "Everyone knows everyone here, we stick together. Some members of the cooperative live on isolated farms, so pouring brings us together and maintains the links," explains the young chairman. Convinced that frequent moments of sharing build mutual trust, he unites the company's milk producers around shared values: a sense of responsibility, solidarity and openness. "The little one has grown up a lot", teases Stéphane Menoud, who at the time welcomed the Philipona child into his cheese dairy at weekends.

A taste of the land

Long winters, marshy soils, typical grassland: Le Gruyère AOP from the La Chaux cheese dairy has its own identity. "Sometimes, customers are surprised that we produce Le Gruyère AOP. In this region, watchmaking has pride of place and we have to fight to establish it as a local speciality," points out Stéphane Menoud. The cheesemaker and his chairman are undaunted by this passion. Every litre of milk is delivered for the production of cheese products, with Le Gruyère AOP at the top of the list. Industrial milk will never be an option. And both of them are keen to work towards recognition for the men and women who add value to the region.

In figures:

  • Cellar capacity: 3,500 wheels
  • 3.5 million kilos processed annually
  • Daily delivery of 10,000 litres of milk
  • 18 dairy farmers
  • 6 employees at the cheese dairy

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