The Transhumance of Beaufort

Beaufort. I put a piece in our fridge and I am actually amazed it’s still there. Respect perhaps. Beaufort is probably the best alpine cheese there is, so you don’t grab it from the fridge just like that. Not a bad word about other French alpine cheeses, or Swiss or Italian for that sake, they’re all good, but Beaufort is special.

Massive fjell i Savoie hvor Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage kommer fra.

Beaufort; three different qualities

Beaufort is of course more than just one cheese. They are serious about cheese in France. The winter edition is called “just” Beaufort. The herd is inside eating hay. From about June 1st the cheese is called Baufort d’été. Summer cheese. The herd is out of the barn enjoying life with fresh grass, and preparing for the transhumance. Steadily climbing the mountain sides of Savoie until they reach right altitude. They actually started last Sunday. Not all farmers and their herds, perhaps, but in La Chapelle they did. Not too far away from Tignes and val d’Isere where some of you might have been. Anyone were invited to join in the first part of the journey, with a BBQ along and the possibility to watch the afternoon milking as well. It’s a happening. Later you can visit them at their chalets, and see for yourself how things are done. For now they have a long way to go before they reach their chalet. Farmers merge their herds and are based at one of the chalets, so not each farmer his or her chalet. But up here, they make the most premium alpine cheese you can get, in my opinion at least; Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage. And while the herd is up in the mountains, they prepare the winter fodder down in the valleys.
We used to have the same thing i Norway, well we still have in some places, but it used to be way more common 100 years ago, than it is today.

Why is Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage so special?

It’s a high mountain cheese, handmade over open fire. The grass is lush, lots of flowers and herbs. You become what you eat. Well, some say you don’t, but with cheese there is a connection with what the milk provider has eaten. Season is short, maximum a hundred days. Then they start their return before the snow arrives. Las year that happened early, so the length of the season varies.
Yellowish colour, fine golden rind. Wheels of 20 to 70 kilos with very typical concave sides. The last one I tasted was made in June 2016. Very fruity and a fine touch of acidity. Creamy when you get it into your mouth. Very long and balanced flavour. As you probably understand, Beaufort is a favourite of mine.

To drink

Excellent cheese requires excellent pairing. I prefer a white, a Chardonnay from the Jura or Burgundy. One of the Montrachets for example. If you are all in for red wine, there is Volnay. As (almost) always, mature Champagne. Some cheese, rustic French country bread and wine. What more can you ask for? Someone to share it with, perhaps.

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