Gruyere AOP

What is Le Gruyere AOP?

Le Gruyere AOP is one of the most exceptional cheeses of Europe.
There is more than one type of Gruyere and more than one type of Le Gruyere AOP. For this article, I am going to refer to Le Gruyere AOP as Gruyere unless I qualify it.
It has won the World Cheese Awards more times – 5 – than any other cheese by a margin. The next best has only two wins to its name. And all Gruyere’s gains have been during the modern era when the awards have been truly international. Come and find out why.

Why have Gruyere AOP on your table?

Here are six good reasons:

  1. It tastes excellent, sometimes best in the world 
  2. It is incredibly reliable 
  3. It has younger and older versions for lunches, cooking and cheeseboards 
  4. It is easy to find, with even some supermarkets doing a decent gruyere 
  5. If you have any leftover, it lasts a long time on your fridge 
  6. You can almost hear Julie Andrews when you eat it 

Where does the name come from?

It comes from the region of Gruyere around the town of Gruyeres (note the “s”). However, there are many cheesed that are sometimes called Gruyere, including French Gruyere, Beaufort and Comte. There is also another kind of Gruyere that comes from the Austrian Alps, and similar cheeses from the whole are such as L’Etivaz and Sbrinz. You can imagine a recipe for a long-lived cheese that matures well in caves, will last many seasons and makes tasty hot dishes is a real asset amongst mountains and snowy winters, but the summers have lush pastures good for cows. Plus for many, it was the most efficient way of trading and preserving wealth. 

A bit of history 

Gruyere is produced in 218 dairies across the cantons of Vaud, Neuchâtel and Jura in Switzerland, 51 one of which are Alpage huts high in the mountains. Dairy farmers bring their milk to the dairies, and the cheeses then travel to one of 10 affineur businesses that ripen and market the cheeses. This process is highly controlled, not only in the cheesemaking process but also in the welfare of the cows, including what they eat and when. Silage, for instance, is a big no-no. 

A quick timeline

  • 161AD Emperor Antonin the Pious, the longest reigning Roman emperor at the time, died from eating way too much Alpine cheese from the Gruyere region (“greedily” so it’s said).
  • 1115 The Gruyere region is recorded as being excellent cheesemakers. This is often stated as the first proof of Gruyere, so perhaps the Gruyere people aren’t that keen on being blamed for the death of one of the better Roman emperors.
  • The 17th Century The Gruyere name is recognised as a cheese
  • 19th Century The Gruyere cheesemaking region is expanded to Vaud, Neuchâtel and Jura
  • 1986 Gruyere de Comte drops the Gruyere to become Comte, avoiding any conflict between these two great neighbouring kinds of cheese.
  • 2010 Le Gruyere becomes an AOP granted by the EU
  • 2012 French Gruyere gets a PGI
  • 2019 Production of Le Gruyere is about 30,000 tonnes per year

Is there more than one type of Gruyere AOP?

Yes, and there are even more types of Gruyere, and that can muddy the waters. The French call some of their cheeses Gruyere, including some Emmental. Hence the Gruyere syndicate place great emphasis on Le Gruyere AOP.   

Within Le Gruyere AOP there are also some variations 

  • Classic: Le Gruyere aged 6-9 months. Commonly found in supermarket pre-pack, and targeted at cooking and sandwich use 
  • Reserve: Le Gruyere at Least ten months. Ten months is not a lot for a Gruyere, and usually presented as pre-pack and therefore price sensitive. It is often not much more than ten months. A good cheese but specialist cheesemongers, in general, need more age to drive footfall away from supermarkets 
  • Gruyere AOP Bio: organic Le Gruyere, otherwise identical 
  • Cave Aged: this is an affineur term, saying the cheese was matured in caves, not cellars. The benefit is debatable, or rather proper cellaring with mature bio-flora can achieve just as excellent results. None of the WCA winning Gruyeres was cave-aged. However, it is persuasive of effort and intent, and the customers like the term, seeing it as synonymous with long-aged or not over-processed or traditionally made. Emmi does an excellent value Kaltbach Cave aged gruyere which is a very good entry-level gruyere for cheeseboards and cheesemongers. Tasters will get you your >5/10 taste to buy ratio. 
  • Gruyere d’Alpage: a subdivision of Le Gruyere, it can only be made from summer high-pasture milk which is noticeably more complex than low pasture milk. 
  • Le Gruyère Premier Cru, a subspecies of Gruyere from Fribourg and matured for 14 months 

Gruyere outside the PFN systems 

Like most European cheese, the US has versions or variations of European cheeses, such as Wisconsin Gruyere. However, Gruyere due to its size is hard to make on a small scale, so, for the most part, these versions are limited to larger producers without the quality controls of Le Gruyere. 

What does Gruyere AOP look like?


A wheel about half a meter across, 12cm high and weighing in total 40 or so kgs. This means most cheesemonger buy-in halves (20kg), quarters (10kg), eights (5kgs) or sixteenths (2-3kgs). There is much pre-pack, as well. 


The rind is firm, brown and slightly pitted like a golf ball, usually 3-4mm thick. It can become sticky when wet. There should be no evidence of cheese mite, and the rind will not incur into the cheese.   

You do not eat gruyere rind. Pre-pack gruyere may show a “clean” rind that has had the rind-proper shaved off. A shaved rind will look like firmer, slightly more see-through less yellow cheese. 


The paste of the cheese can be experienced in three main stages of age: 

  • Mild to medium Colour white to yellow, the paste will be texture about 6, elastic and slightly squishy. The paste is even across the cheese, with rare holes if any (not a flaw), should not have splits or cracks (a potential flaw). Look for: More yellow than white 
  • Mature Colour yellowing to ivory, the paste will be textured about 7, some elasticity. The cheese will break after bending when stressed. The paste is even across the cheese, with rare holes if any (not a flaw) which may have moisture build. There should not have splits or cracks (a potential flaw). Look for: More ivory over yellow, and as firm when pressed as available.   
  • Extra mature to vintage Colour ivory. The cheese is now hard, texture about 8, with no elasticity. The cheese will break when stressed with clear striations. The paste remains even across the cheese, with rare holes if any (not a flaw) which will likely moisture build up inside. As before, there should not have splits or cracks (a potential flaw). Look for: The harder, the older. 

What does Gruyere AOP taste like?

For this example, I will be using an 18-month cheeseboard Le Gruyere AOP.   

Younger Gruyeres will have the complex flavours pared back, and the simple flavours will have reduced acidity and savouriness, and higher sweetness (creaminess). 

Using the tasting notes:

  • Paste applies to the body of the cheese
  • Numbers range from 0-10, 10 being highest, 0 being not present
  • Cheese can vary significantly in some areas, and number can vary. If you have anything you would like to add drop me a message

Before you taste the cheese…

TextureFirm 8Hard 9The rind is not edible
ConsistencyThe smoothest and most even of cheeses alpines are instantly recognisable as without variation in colour or texture.  The cheese will break not bend, revealing some where between rock and fibrous texture N/ASmall eyes may occasionally be present. 
SmellLow intensity, 2-3.  The low moisture levels lock the aroma in.  You may smell milk, cream and meadows, with hints of earth or must. 

When tasting the cheese

TextureSoft and pliable (5-6) when young; older it is very much firmer (8), tending to grainy when chewed 
Wet to dryLightly drying: 6 
Simple flavoursPasteRindComments
Savoury5-7Gruyere is typical alpine in having salt, sweet and savoury roughly in balance.  Hitting all the comfort food flavours makes it very popular to all ages and palates. 
AcidRising towards the end – 0-3
Complex FlavoursLikelyOccasionalRare
DairyCream 5-8; butter 2-6; cornflakes milk 2-5; Caramel 1-4; Dark caramel 1-3; rancid butter 1-4 
Fruity or FloralNutty 2-6; fruity 1-4; floral 1-4 Walnut 1-3; cob nut 1-3;  
berries 1-3; dried fruits 1-3 
Vegetal or herbaceousHay 2-6; white toast 1-5; meadows 1-4;  Brown bread or burnt toast 1-3 Malt 1-3
Mineral or chemical
Animal, fungal or fermentedEarthy 2-5; Musty 1-3; mushroom 1-3 Fish on the rind (fault) 

Overall assessment

Complexity7 months: 4; 18+ months 8 
BalanceAlways strong: 8 
Length7 months: 4; 18+ months 8 
SummaryAn extremely big well-balanced cheese. Riding on a dairy backdrop of cream and butter, you will likely find general nutty, fruity and dried grass notes with a grounding theme of earthiness.  Older cheeses may develop further walnut, berries, meadows and white toast flavours and more. 

Who makes Gruyere AOP and is there many variations in quality and flavour?

It is rarely useful to look behind the importer at the underlying producer, rather get tasters in from different importers, asking what ages are available.

  • Von Muhlenen, The original Von Muhlenen, is the Gruyere that won all the WCA titles. However, it is not readily available in the UK, try it if you can find it. 
  • Kaltbach This cheese is matured in the Kaltbach limestone caves. This is excellent mature cheeseboard Gruyere at an affordable price. 
  • Le Cret Waitrose sell it pre-pack, so good if you must, but cut from a larger piece it will taste better. A good last resort. 
  • Fromagerie Beillevaire Fromagerie Beillevaire is an affineur and importer, not the producer. At the time of writing, this is my favourite Gruyere. Most cheesemongers can access this cheese as it has just been listed with one of the better wholesalers. 
  • Affineur Walo Walo is Walo Von Muhlenen, who sold his company (and hence is NOT the affineur to the Von Muhlenen gruyere above) some years ago. He now affineurs Gruyere and similar cheeses (he has several) are quickly becoming award winners – Recommended. 
  • Others… There are many. Enjoy looking for them. 

Younger Gruyeres tend not to carry producer or affineur markings. At the top end, you can differentiate your products from your competitors, but within the “Classic” age bracket you can’t. 

If you have any other Gruyeres you would like me to mention or review you can email me on charlie@turnbulls.co.uk. 


There are many similar cheeses made in Switzerland, Austria Germany and France. 

Better known ones are: 

  • Comte  
  • Beaufort 
  • L’Etivaz 
  • Sbrinz 
  • Emmental 
  • Appenzeller 
  • Fontina 
  • Piave 
  • French Gruyere 
  • Greek Graviera 

For more distinctive alternatives, there are many swiss farmhouse alpine cheeses that seem to be gruyere inspired.  To get these in the UK, you would need to search out yourself or contact specialist importers like Jumi Cheese of Borough Market. 

British alternatives: 

There are no British alternatives, modern or traditional.  You have to buy your Hard-Cooked (Alpine) cheeses from Europe.  

How do you use Gruyere AOP – and what should I pair it with?

Lunch, cooking or cheeseboard 

All three. 

  • Lunch: The mature and younger cheese is good for lunch and sandwiches. 
  • Cooking: For cooking the younger (“Classic”) cheese are very much best. The older cheeses can be too dense in flavour. The younger cheeses not only give flavour, often stronger than they taste cold but also give a wonderful fondue-like texture to sauces, coats and melts. 
  • Cheeseboard: go late aged. A big 18-24 month gruyere can be the star of a cheeseboard 

Sweet or savoury tracklement: Jelly, pickle or chutney? 

For a cheese that has a lot of strength, Gruyeres can be surprisingly fragile when matching. 

Gruyeres tends to dry sweet accompaniments, so jellies, fruit cheeses and fruit vinegar dressings, but also go with whole fruit or vegetable pickles like pickled gherkins and pickled onions, or pickled pears or figs. 

Wines, beers and other drinks 

  • Wine: Go for dry, fruity reds such as short to medium aged Pinot Noir or longer aged Gamay. Excessive sweetness or heavy tannins in wine can jar.  
  • Bitters: Not generally a good match, the bitter-notes go against the balanced sweet salt savouriness of the gruyere. However, beers are a broad church, so you will probably find something if you try hard enough. 
  • Lagers: Lager can kill Gruyeres. Don’t do it! 
  • Juices: I like pear juice. 
  • Other: Try Baileys, Kahlua, Amarula Cream or even chocolate liqueurs. They work very well in bringing out the acid in the gruyere for a complex, creamy total impression. 

Caring for Gruyere AOP in the home

The Environmental rules for brie are that you can leave it out of the fridge for 2 hours, and then return it to the fridge for normal use. You can leave it out of the fridge between 2 and 4 hours, and then it must be consumed or disposed of.

This is very limiting, and most ordinary people are either not aware of the rules or ignore them. Many of my customers over the years leave cheeses out, especially Bries and camemberts to ripen them. As a professional, I CAN NOT advise people to do this.

I can say that in my own home I try to find the coolest place in the house to do my final ripening. I am allowed to poison myself.

Larders are best if you have one, with stone, marble or slate shelves, but these are rare now. Some of my customers use their garages, unheated spare rooms, utility rooms or porches. They are trying to represent the producers maturing rooms, which means between 10 and 16oC for final ripening. Above 20oC and you will over-ripen on the outside of the cheese and bring on a smelly rind while possibly still having a chalky centre. Kitchens are NOT good. Today’s kitchens are 21-24oC in temperature, which is too hot for ripening. These customers say 1-2 days is generally plenty. I am told they then put them back in the fridge to slow down the process again until they want to eat it.


  • Number 1 choiceIn your fridge: I use a Tupperware, and am quite happy putting all my cheeses together, unwrapped and even touching when I have a lot of cheeses in the house. The exception is the washed rind cheeses. These don’t play well with others and should have their own box.
    Why doesn’t the white or blue mould get into other cheeses? Given enough time it will, but you’ve got a week. just keep eating your cheese at a good rate
  • Number 2 choice – Clingfilm: it really works, keeps the air out and is less harmful on the environment than bagging them up

Storage DONTs

  • I don’t like greaseproof paper. It is generally not recyclable nor proof from cheese drying out, and once used two or three times becomes dirty and a hazard. I agree it looks cool, but cheese looks best naked anyway.
  • Tinfoil: some blue cheeses use it but it is not the same as the stuff you buy in supermarkets. It has a plastic coating on the cheese side. Don’t use your own.


Bring to room temperature before consuming, this means 20-23oC in most houses. An hour should be plenty for wedges, for large pieces leave a little longer.

Charlie’s top tips: How to buy a good piece of Gruyere AOP

Here are my two golden rules:

  1. Always taste before you buy (if you can)
    All cheeses are affected by their whole journey, not just who made them. The season of making, the weather on the day, who by and how they were matured, how long they will in the chill chain (chilled transport system) for.
  2. Buy your wedge cut off from a big cheese (if you can)
    All cheeses like to stay whole as long as possible. Pre-pack is never as good, head to the deli counter.

Is Gruyere AOP suitable for pregnant and immunity fragile people? Yes, and a great option as its full of flavour.  NHS guidelines https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/foods-to-avoid-pregnant/ 

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