The Comté of Marcel Petite is one of the region’s most brilliant images, a testament to the beauty of the Jura and the strength of its people.
In a land of long, harsh winters, villagers and farmers formed cooperatives in order to pool their milk and make cheese that would nourish them through the spring. The cheeses that resulted were large in format, able to age over a long period of time. For over 10 centuries Comté has been produced in the mountainous region that stretches between Jura and Doubs in the Franche-Comté region, and Ain in the Rhones-Alpes region. Matured for a minimum of 4 months, this large mountain cheese was one of the first few cheeses to receive an AOC (Appellation d’origine controlee) status in 1958.
Marcel Petite was an affineur who specialised in the cool, slow maturation of Comté. Petite wanted his Comtés to be aged in their natural environment, near the mountain cheese dairies where they were made. In 1966 he discovered a defunct military fort in a forest of Haut Doubt, known as Fort Saint Antoine. The fort’s structure of cut and vaulted stone, covered with a thick layer of soil, provided the ideal conditions for “Affinage Lent” (Slow Maturing). Today, over 100,000 wheels are ripened for 10 to 20 months, in the Cathedral of Marcel Petite Comté.
Today, the practices of Maison Petite remain true to its founder’s innovative philosophy of simplicity above all things. The aim is to always offer a simply authentic product, deserving of the name Marcel Petite. When selecting Comté, the Marcel Petite cellar Master considers four key criteria: Delicacy, subtlety, intensity and depth of flavor. The ripening age is an indicator, but not the main criterion of selection.
COMTE AOC REGULATIONS
–Delimited area of production: Doubs, Jura, Ain, elevation 1500-4500 ft.
– Milk must be produced by local cows of the Montbéliarde (95%) and Simmental (5%) breeds. There are approximately 112,000 Comté cows.
–Minimum of 2.5 acres of natural pasture for each animal.
-Cattle feed must be natural and free of fermented products and GMOs.
–Each fruitière must collect milk from dairy farms within a 17-mile diameter maximum.
–Milk must be made into cheese within 24 hours maximum of the earliest milking.
– Only natural ferments must be used to transform the milk into curds.
– Wheels must be aged on spruce boards. Minimum ageing is 4 months, generally 6-18 months and sometimes even longer.
GREEN VS BROWN
Each wheel of Comte is graded before sale. Grading is based on appearance, rind quality, internal appearance, texture and taste. The best wheels are awarded a green label with the iconic green bell featured. The next tier are awarded a brown label. Any wheels that do not make the cut are not allowed to be sold as Comte.