September 26th 2020 is a special day for the Swiss village of Les Charbonnières in Canton Vaud. In the foothills of the Jura Mountains, Vacherin Mont D’Or AOC officially releases back on to the international market. Les Charbonnières hosts a traditional annual Vacherin Mont d’Or fair called Désalpe. The event includes a farmers’ market, descent of the herds, Alphorns, bell-ringers and country music. It concludes with the finale: the presentation of the ‘Vacherin Mont d’Or 2019’. Of course, the real purpose of the fair is to offer a chance to taste the first vacherin of the season.
Legend has it that in 1871, a soldier from Bourbaki’s army brought the famous recipe with him to the Charbonnieres. However archival documents mention Vacherin deliveries from 1845.
The cheese is available throughout the winter until April. According to the head of the Vacherin Mont D’Or association, about 70 tons are exported to Europe. It also reaches further afield to Japan, with five tons going to Canada and the US. That sounds a lot but 150,000 individual 500g boxes across the whole planet is not much to go round! So make sure you can get yours while you can.
The reason there isn’t larger volume being created is because there are only thirteen producers or ‘’finishers’‘ of Vacherin Mont D’Or. These teams work according to tightly controlled criteria in a carefully determined zone of production in Vaud. This is where the cheese may be made according to Swiss federal-government ‘AOC’ regulation. ‘AOC’ stands for Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée, similar to PDO in the UK Protected Designation of Origin.
Vacherin Mont D’Or received its AOC certification in 2003 to protect its provenance. About half of the total thirteen producers and finishers are located in Les Charbonnières and its surrounding villages. It is here that the “Fête du Vacherin Mont D’Or AOC” is celebrated every year in the main square.
The name “Vacherin” is thought to have come from making the cheese distinguishable from “chevrotin”, a goat’s milk cheese. By the 19th century, raw-milk Vacherin was already established as a fine cheese from the Les Charbonnières area.
If you haven’t tried Vacherin Mont D’Or it is an absolute cheese-lover’s must.
Vacherin Mont d’Or draws its smoothness from the milk of the cows fed with herbs and flowers from the Vaud Jura. The refinement process helps develop a unique aroma and texture from this fragrant start.
When suitably ripe, the cheese under the pale yellow crust is soft and deliciously alpine. When very ripe it becomes super oozy and spoonable. Its superbly rich creaminess is enhanced by woody notes. This comes from the strip of spruce bark that encircles the cheese inside the box. Famously, it is served directly in this box.
The spruce box is handcrafted from Jura fir trees. The wooden kernels subtlety transmit their scent into the flavour, for an unrivalled taste.
Vacherin really is a one of a kind cheese, and something to be celebrated. To buy Vacherin Mont D’Or visit our product page here.