BBC Good Food ME|January 2020
Nestled between Albertville and the astounding Mont Blanc massif, the valley of Beaufortain in the region of Savoie, France is a mecca for skiers and winter sports aficionados. However, over the summer months, the region favours a different kind of tourism, one founded on one of the country’s most treasured products – cheese. In 2019, France’s revenue in the cheese segment amounted to over US $11m, making it the first in Europe and third globally, whilst the average per capita consumption stands at 17.9 kg in 2019, 15 kg over the global average, as revealed by Statista. There’s no doubt the French love cheese.
It is during a bright and warm day in August, amongst a herd of Tarentaise cows grazing undisturbed in one of Beaufortain’s biggest Alpages, that I find out the secret ingredients that make French cheeses some of the best in the world: tradition and heritage. “Being an Alpagist is not a job, it’s life,” tells us Christian Juglaret, owner of the vast alpine pasture.
Juglaret is the president of the Coopérative Laitière de Haute-Tarentaise and an established producer of Beaufort, a flowery and buttery cheese named after the valley. As his father before him, he has dedicated his life to cheesemaking and lives in a chalet on the Alpages from June to November, which is when the temperature drops and the herd is brought back to its barns. A true Alpagist, Juglaret milks his cows twice a day, from the early hours until later in the day, before transporting the fresh milk to the production site in Bourg-Saint-Maurice, a small town at the bottom of the valley. To maintain the high mountain pasture’s precious biodiversity and prevent bushes from growing, the Alpagist needs to move the herd constantly – the Beaufort draws all its finesse and aromas from the grasslands and preserving the Alpage is a top priority for Juglaret. “Back in the day, when we produced Beaufort on site, the cheese had a different flavour depending on the location of the grazing. The cheese fully reflects what the cows are eating,” he explains.
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