Gruyère cheese

Gruyère (UK: /ˈɡrjɛər/, US: /ɡrˈjɛər, ɡriˈ-/, French: [ɡʁɥijɛʁ] (listen); German: Greyerzer) is a hard Swiss cheese that originated in the cantons of Fribourg, Vaud, Neuchâtel, Jura, and Berne in Switzerland. It is named after the town of Gruyères in Fribourg. In 2001, Gruyère gained the appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC), which became the appellation d'origine protégée (AOP) as of 2013.

Country of originSwitzerland
Region, townCanton of Fribourg, Gruyères
Source of milkCows
Aging time5–12 months (typical)
CertificationSwiss AOC 2001-2013
Swiss AOP since 2013
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Gruyère is classified as a Swiss-type or Alpine cheese and is sweet but slightly salty, with a flavour that varies widely with age. It is often described as creamy and nutty when young, becoming more assertive, earthy, and complex as it matures. When fully aged (five months to a year), it tends to have small cracks that impart a slightly grainy texture. Unlike Emmental, with which it is often confused, modern Gruyère has few if any eyes,[1] although in the 19th century, this was not always the case. It is the most popular Swiss cheese in Switzerland, and in most of Europe.[2]


Gruyère is used in many ways in countless dishes. It is considered a good cheese for baking, because of its distinctive but not overpowering taste. For example in quiche, Gruyère adds savoriness without overshadowing the other ingredients. It is a good melting cheese,[3] particularly suited for fondues, along with Vacherin Fribourgeois and Emmental. It is also traditionally used in French onion soup, as well as in croque-monsieur, a classic French toasted ham and cheese sandwich. Gruyère is also used in chicken and veal cordon bleu. It is a fine table cheese, and when grated, it is often used with salads and pastas. It is used, grated, atop le tourin, a garlic soup from France served on dried bread. White wines, such as Riesling, pair well with Gruyère. Sparkling cider and Bock beer are also beverage affinities.


Traditional production of Gruyère (left) vs industrial production (right)

To make Gruyère, raw cow's milk is heated to 34 °C (93 °F) in a copper vat, and then curdled by the addition of liquid rennet. The curd is cut up into pea-sized pieces and stirred, releasing whey. The curd is cooked at 43 °C (109 °F), and raised quickly to 54 °C (129 °F).

The whey is strained, and the curds placed into moulds to be pressed. After salting in brine and smearing with bacteria,[4] the cheese is ripened for two months at room temperature, generally on wooden boards, turning every couple of days to ensure even moisture distribution. Gruyère can be cured for 3 to 10 months, with long curing producing a cheese of intense flavour.


The affinage cellar in the Maison du Gruyère, in Gruyères

An important and the longest part of the production of Gruyère in Switzerland is the affinage (French for 'maturation').

According to the AOC, the cellars to mature a Swiss Gruyère must have a climate close to a natural cave. This means that the humidity should be between 94% and 98%. If the humidity is lower, the cheese dries out. If the humidity is too high, the cheese does not mature and becomes smeary and gluey. The temperature of the caves should be between 13 and 14 °C (55 and 57 °F). This relatively high temperature is required for excellent-quality cheese. Lower-quality cheeses result from temperatures between 10 and 12 °C (50 and 54 °F). The lower the temperature, the less the cheese matures, resulting in a harder and more crumbly texture.

The landscape of the region of Gruyères, marked by milk economy
Rounds of Swiss Gruyère cheese on sale in a wholesale food market in France


In 2001, Gruyère gained the Appellation d'origine contrôlée (now designated Appellation d'origine protégée) status. Since then, the production and the maturation have been strictly defined, and all Swiss Gruyère producers must follow these rules.


Although Gruyère is recognised as a Swiss Geographical Indication in the EU,[5] Gruyère of French origin is also protected as a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) in the EU.[6] To avoid confusion, the EU PGI Gruyère must indicate that it comes from France and must make sure it cannot be confused with Gruyère from Switzerland.[7] It, therefore, is generally sold as "French Gruyère".

United States

In 2021, a U.S. District Court ruled that the term "gruyere" had become a generic term[8] and thus that the Swiss and French Gruyère producers' associations could not register it as a trademark in the United States.[9][10]


Gruyère from the brand/variety Le Premier Cru Switzerland

Gruyere (as a Swiss AOC) has many varieties with different age profiles, and an organic version of the cheese is also sold. A special variety is produced only in summer in the Swiss Alps and is branded as Le Gruyère Switzerland AOC Alpage.

Generally, one can distinguish the age profiles of mild/doux (minimum five months old) and réserve, also known as surchoix (minimum ten months old). In Switzerland, other age profiles can be found, including mi-salé (7–8 months), salé (9–10 months), vieux (14 months), and Höhlengereift (cave aged), but these age profiles are not part of the AOC.

Le Gruyère AOP Premier Cru

Le Gruyère Premier Cru is a special variety, produced and matured exclusively in the canton of Fribourg and matured for 14 months in cellars with a humidity of 95% and a temperature of 13.5 °C (56.3 °F).[11]

It is the only cheese that has won the title of the best cheese in the world at the World Cheese Awards four times: in 1992, 2002, 2005, and 2015.[12][13]

Similar cheeses

L'Etivaz is a very similar Swiss hard cheese from the canton of Vaud. It is made from raw cow's milk and is very similar to aged Gruyère in taste. In the 1930s, a group of 76 Gruyère producing families felt that government regulations were allowing cheesemakers to compromise the qualities that made good Gruyère so special. They withdrew from the government's Gruyère program, and "created" their own cheese - L'Etivaz - named for the village around which they all lived. They founded a cooperative in 1932, and the first cheese cellars were built in 1934.[14]

The French Le Brouère cheese, made in nearby Vosges, is considered a variant of Gruyère.[15]

Γραβιέρα (graviera) is a popular Greek cheese which resembles Gruyère and is an EU Protected Designation of Origin. There are Naxian varieties (produced from cow's milk) that tend to be milder and sweeter, and various gravieras from Crete, which are produced from sheep's milk.

Kars gravyer cheese is a Turkish cheese made of cow's milk or a mixture of cow's and goat's milk.[16] Gruyère-style cheeses are also produced in the United States, with Wisconsin having the largest output, and in Bosnia under the name Livanjski sir (Livno cheese).

See also

  • Culinary Heritage of Switzerland  Encyclopedia of Swiss cuisine
  • List of cheeses  List of cheeses by place of origin
  • Swiss cheeses and dairy products
  • Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana in Rome, known locally as La Groviera (literally The Gruyère); so known because it is "full of holes", referring to the stereotype of Swiss cheese.

Notes and references

  1. Quimme, Peter (1976). The Signet Book of Cheese. gruyere texture cracks grainy.
  2. Lortal, Sylvie, "Cheeses made with Thermophilic Lactic Starters", Chapter 16 in Handbook of Food and Beverage Fermentation Technology, 2004, CRC Press, ISBN 0203913558, 9780203913550, google books
  3. "Cook's Thesaurus: Semi-Firm Cheeses". Retrieved Apr 9, 2020.
  4. Fox, Patrick. Cheese: Chemistry, Physics and Microbiology. p. 200.
  5. "Gruyère". European Union. Retrieved 26 September 2021.
  6. "Gruyère". European Union. Retrieved 26 September 2021.
  7. "Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 110/2013 of 6 February 2013 entering a name in the register of protected designations of origin and protected geographical indications [Gruyère (PGI)]". European Union. Retrieved 26 September 2021.
  8. Interprofession du Gruyère et al. v. U.S. Dairy Export Council et al., Civil Action No. 1:20-cv-1174 (E.D. Va. December 15, 2021)
  9. Gross, Jenny (2022-01-12). "Is Gruyère Still Gruyère if It Doesn't Come From Gruyères?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-01-16.
  10. Welch, John L. "E.D. Va. District Court Upholds TTAB Decision Finding". Mondaq. Retrieved 2022-01-16.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. "Von Muehlenen". Retrieved Apr 9, 2020.
  12. "von Mühlenen et Cremo SA concluent une alliance - Newsfox". Nov 20, 2006. Archived from the original on 2006-11-20. Retrieved Apr 9, 2020.
  13. "Le Gruyère AOP Premier Cru crowned World Champion Cheese 2015". The Guild of Fine Food. Retrieved Apr 9, 2020.
  14. L'Etivaz Producers Cooperative website (in French)
  15. Ridgway, J., Weinzweig, A., & Hill, S. (2004). The cheese companion: The connoisseur's guide. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Running Press
  16. "10 Awesome Turkish Cheeses You Have to Taste | Go Turkey Tourism". Retrieved Apr 9, 2020.
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