‘Si le Comté m’était conté…’
To become an educated lover of this renowned French cheese, there’s nothing like going behind the scenes of its production. For this, follow the Routes du Comté . The first stage is at the farms, where milk from Montbéliarde and Simmental cows is carefully collected, the only ones allowed for the making of AOC Comté. Out in the orchards, the milk then becomes cheese: it’s heated, rennet is added, and the curds are removed and pressed into a mould. And these become the large grindstone-shaped cheeses that head off to mature. The unlikely cellars here are the converted military forts of Saint-Antoine and Les Rousses, which now house tens of thousands of cheeses each. At Fort des Rousses , it’s not just about cheese either: the ‘Commando Games’ immerse you in the athletic world of the elite soldiers who trained here a few decades ago. There are courses underground, in the trees and on the ramparts, escape games, and orienteering challenges.
The grey line
Even if Comté is king in the Jura, Morbier has its own delectable appeal, with its soft texture, delicate flavour and intriguing grey line that appears to cut it in half. The latter is inherited from the old, two-stage manufacturing process. To protect it, the first layer was covered with ash, before adding the necessary second batch the following day. Other AOCs from the region include Bleu de Gex, and Mont d’Or, nicknamed ‘boite chaude’ (‘hot box’) after its round box, and because it’s eaten with spoon after being melted in the oven.
‘En faire tout un fromage’ (‘To make a big deal of it’)
To see cheeses out in the fields, head to the Montagnon Farm Museum in Fournets-Luisans – best to go in the morning to see the cheese being ‘born’! And to meet a passionate cheesemaker, head to Fromagerie Janin. Marc, awarded the prestigious title of Meilleur Ouvrier de France, introduces visitors to classic local cheeses as well as his own inventions: Champagnolais, with its soft, almost molten texture, Palet au Marc d’Arbois, Tomme Comtoise, and Morillon made from Normandy Camembert with morels, yellow wine and cream. Count on Marc to explain their stories in detail!
The tradition modernised
Tradition has its place in the Jura mountains… just like creativity! Cancoillotte, made in the Jura in particular, is a perfect example. On the palate it’s smooth and light, as it contains less than 15% fat. Fabrice Piguet has created sophisticated versions of this raw product: Cancoillotte with pink garlic from Lautrec, with kirsch (cherry-based alcohol) from Fougerolles, with morels, with yellow wine, caviar, truffles, Sochaux beer and hops. Since its creation in the 16th century, it’s an understatement to say that Cancoillotte has evolved!
The spirit of innovation at work in the region has created products that enhance its natural treasures. An example is Elixia lemonade , which, since 1856, has embodied the typical local scents and flavours: blueberry, fir, morello cherry, organic peppermint. In Amancey, the Aromacomtois company uses the pine needles from local softwood trees, including Jura spruce. Essential oils are extracted from it, while respecting the environment, and are used to perfume syrup, sweets and gums, available in the workshop-boutique.
Sweet tooths will love Klaus caramels, made with fresh milk from Haut-Doubs cows, but also their very local version of Arbois wine, Savagnin. And good news: you can visit the factory in Morteau, which was established in 1896. Head to Edouard Hirsinger’s shop in Arbois for the best local chocolates. Here you’ll also find almond corks flavoured with Marc d’Arbois or absinthe, a chocolate called La Fée-Verte, also made with absinthe, and the Arboisien, a soft almond cake.
A glass half full
No less than seven AOCs, spread over a dense vineyard, coexist in the heart of the first foothills of the Jura. Throughout the 80km of the Jura Wine Route, they alternate between sparkling, dry, sweet, red, white and rosé, and can be light or powerful. Marc du Jura, for example, is an amber brandy, which is also added to the sparkling wine Macvin-du-Jura. On the liqueur side, there is vert sapin (made from fir) and absinthe, which even has its own dedicated Route. Note that on the wine list at traditional restaurant L’Anversis in Lamoura, Haut-Jura, there are almost 350 wines and around 20 different absinthes.
Gold of the Jura
Naturally sweet, the golden-hued ‘vin de paille’ (‘straw wine’) has aromas reminiscent of exotic candied fruits. Its complex production is revealed during the Pressée du Vin de Paille, a celebration celebrating the arrival of the new vintage. The other treasure of the Jura is the famous yellow wine, produced exclusively from the Savagnin grape around the charming village of Château-Chalon, and which goes very well with a piece of aged Comté . It’s celebrated at the Percée du Vin Jaune in early February, notably with a parade by Vin Jaune ambassadors.
The Morteau sausage, and its cousin the Montbéliarde, are the stars of Jura charcuterie. Juicy and mellow, their USP is that they’re smoked with conifer wood. In the past, the smoking was done in a large open chimney – today it’s done on a larger scale at Tuyé du Papy Gaby in Gilley, in the department of Doubs. Visit for tastings and a wide choice of souvenirs to take home.