by Ashley Linkletter | The first time I tried Beaufort was over 10 years ago when I was just starting my 2nd year of university and working at a cheese shop in London, Ontario. I thought it tasted good, bought it a few times, and then promptly moved on to another new favourite cheese of the week. It wasn’t until I recently tasted the beautiful Beaufort d’Alpage that this cheese really began to shine above all others for me.
Beaufort is an AOC raw cow’s milk cheese made in Beaufortain, which is located in the Savoie region of the French Alps. There are several types of Beaufort, each with their own specifications on production. For example, some Beauforts are made with winter milk, while others are made with summer milk. Beaufort d’Alpage is made using the milk of Tarine (or Tarentaise) cows and must be produced in the mountain chalets of the Alps using traditional methods, some of which date back to over 2,000 years ago. On average, Beaufort requires 11 litres of milk for each kilogram of finished cheese and each wheel averages 50-70 kilograms. To give you an idea of the size, the last time at les amis du fromage, splitting open a new wheel of Beaufort took four people!
The taste of Beaufort d’Alpage is immediate and it lingers long. What you’ll notice first is the heavenly smoothness of the cheese (and, if you’re me, the subsequent feeling that all is once again right with the world). As the flavours settle you’ll taste nutty, sweet notes with a mild hint of grassiness. It’s a good example of a raw milk cheese that tells of its terroir; if you close your eyes you can begin to taste the warm essence of hay and summon Alpine scrubland and mountain sunshine to your palette. It’s distinctly flavoured and yet it’s also accessible without being overwhelming or off-putting to those who don’t like pungent cheeses. This makes Beaufort d’Alpage an ideal option for entertaining and an easy choice to pair with wines and beers.
I’m often asked at work to recommend a single table cheese to place out for guests after dinner. Alpine style cheeses in general are perfect contenders for the role, but Beaufort d’Alpage’s mouthfeel in particular is dense and rich. It’s like biting into a thick slice of savoury dark chocolate cake; which is why, to me, this cheese feels like eating dessert.
Serve it at room temperature with pears and apples or dried cherries and dark chocolate. Traditionally, wines from the Savoie are paired with Beaufort but try it after dinner with strong coffee or espresso — the combination is excellent. Beaufort melts wonderfully and is often used in traditional French fondue or melted onto potatoes softly boiled in milk and then baked in a hot oven. My favourite way to enjoy it is in a decadent grilled cheese, served on white French bread with lots of butter and a thin layer of preserves (local company Artisan Edibles makes a fabulous Apple Fig and Ginger chutney that turns this grilled cheese into something that nears perfection).