The Reblochon de Savoie cheese: Introduction
The Reblochon cheese is a round, creamy cheese covered in a fine white mould which gives a veil of softness on the fine grain of the saffron yellow coloured rind? When sliced, the Reblochon, typical of Savoy, unveils an unctuous, smooth, ivory coloured pâte. In the mouth, the Reblochon reveals a subtle, smooth flavour, elevated by a fine nutty flavour.
The Reblochon cheese is in the shape of a flat disc with a diameter of 13cm, a thickness of 2.5cm and a weight of 500grams. The maturing process lasts for 4 to 5 weeks in a cool, humid cheese cellar where it is washed periodically.
Exterior appearance of the Reblochon cheese: fine, dewy rind
Odour of the Reblochon cheese: slight odour of mould
Texture of the Reblochon cheese: soft
Taste of the Reblochon cheese: deliciously nutty and creramy.
The Reblochon cheese has been AOC since 1958. The area of production of this cheese is in the mountains of Savoy, especially the Haute-Savoie , a small part of Savoie, le Val d’Arly close to Col des Aravis. This area of production is outlined and contained by the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée. The cheese can not be produced outside of this terrain. The Haute-Savoie receives an important level of rainfall during the year (around 2 meters of water each year). This stimulates a significant growth of the grass from spring to summer and a significant amount of snow in winter.
The life of the herds of cattle is greatly influenced by the seasons: they leave the barn in May, graze on the pasture of the land at the foot of the mountains, and then mount the high mountain pasture at the beginning of June where they stay until the beginning of October. The mounting of the cattle onto the high mountain pasture is the magical moment where both men and cattle find this rich grass of spring and the awe-inspiring setting where they will spend the whole of summer. Each year, from the end of May to the beginning of September, the families ‘emmontagnent’ meaning they ‘mount the mountain’ with their cattle. The cattle graze on the pasture whilst life on the high mountain pasture is organised. On the mountains, the people live comfortably but the days are long and hard. The cows which produce the milk for the Reblochon cheese need a lot of looking after and attention. The farmers have to organise their daily life meticulously, down to the last minute.
The Rebechon de Savoie cheese which is farm produced is recognisable from its green patch. It is produced on a farm, twice a day, with the milk of the farmer’s one and only herd. All of the steps involved in making the cheese are done by hand. Its flavour is more pronounced than that of its relative which is made in a co-operative cheese dairy or milk dairy. The Reblochon cheese stays at the farm for at least 6 days, and then it is generally sold to an affineur (a person who matures cheese) who will give lots of care and attention to the cheese in continuing the maturing process.
The Reblochon cheese which is made by a cheese dairy or co-operative cheese dairy is recognisable from its red patch. It is produced each day, in a co-operative cheese dairy or cheese dairy, with the milk which has been collected from several farms in the area of production.
The History of the Reblochon de Savoie cheese
The Reblochon cheese is certainly a cheese with a very long history, but it has only been widely known of since the end of the 18th Century, when freedom was given to the tenant farmers after the fall of the Ancien Régime. This is why this cheese was unknown for so long. The Reblochon originated in the 13th Century, on the high mountain pastures of the valley of Thônes by a clandestine pilferer? At the time, the land owners, often moks and nobles possessed the right to take a portion of the milk produced by the farmers that worked on their land.
The farmers remunerated their landlord with the quantity of one day’s milk production. At the moment when the landlords checked up on the farmers for this remuneration, ingeniously, the farmer would produce less milk that day in order to pay less to his landlord. As soon as the check up was over, the farmers produced a second batch of milk. The milk that was then produced was not a large quantity but rich and creamy, ideal for making cheese. So as not to pay the landlord all of the milk, on the day of the check up by the landlord, the farmers did not milk the cows to their full potential and later they ‘reblochaient’ or 'dried up’ the udders of the cow meaning they milked the cows a second time and then they made little cheeses for their personal consumption.
The Reblochon cheese takes its name from this fraud, called locally as ‘Rebloche’ because the patois ‘Re-blocher’ means to ‘pince the udders of the cow a second time.’ Until the end of the 19th Century, the production of the Reblochons was limited to the summer period, when the cattle grazed on the high mountain pasture. In the year 1860, the date when Savoy was integrated into the French Empire, the commercialisation of the Reblochon cheese began, especially thanks to the arrival of the railway at Annency. This meant that people could leave the region and go to work in the big cities like Paris and Lyon or move to North Africa. The transportation of the merchandise was facilitated and the parcels of Reblochon started to be exported from the valleys of Thônes.
The big economic crisis would soon effect the whole of France, leading notably to a general decline in consummation which also affected Reblochon. There was quickly a problem of overproduction of the cheese, which would worsen because the local affineurs came to discover that a Bornandin (an inhabitant of Grand- Bornand in Haute-Savoie) from a farm on the Côte d’Or started to fabricate Reblochon. As an initiative of Auguste THEVENET, a cheese affineur from Thônes, the Association of Exporters was created in 1932. Its mission was “to protect the Reblechon cheese from the decline of agriculture in the valleys due to the spread of the production of the cheese throughout the whole region.”
In 1937, the Association of Exporters became the Association of Affineurs and its president, Auguste THEVENET, summoned a writ to the producer from the Côte d’Or who was intercepted by a bailiff at the market of Dôle (in Jura). The year after, the producers of Reblochon created their association to be able to “participate in a move to limit the area of production.” This question saw an unfavourable outcome at a tribunal in Annency which dismissed Auguste THEVENET and his actions, stating that the Reblochon can not claim seniority of its geographical origin as demanded in the law of 1919. Luckily for those who wanted to see the area limited, the war of 1939 interrupted the proceedings and the situation stayed as it was because, 10 years later, the preoccupations of reaching the quota of cheese replaced those of the overproduction. Then, after both wars, the AOC was adopted which protected the area of production of the Reblechon cheese.