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An Abondance of Flavour!

Abondance cheese is made from whole, raw cow’s milk and takes its name from the valley and village of Abondance.

The skills used to make Abondance are passed on from one generation to the next: the cheese needs at least 100 days to mature so that its subtle aromas are developed to the full.

The valley of Abondance nestles in the northern part of the Haute-Savoie region (French Alps), right on the border with Switzerland. It is the birthplace of an exceptional cheese.

Even now, after centuries of local production, Abondance cheese is only made in the mountains of the Haute-Savoie and has been awarded the prestigious Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) label.

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A story

Cheese-making skills that stand the test of time

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Back in the twelfth century, the monks who lived in the valley of Abondance realised that their precious cheese could be a source of true wealth for their remote mountain valley.

They started the long, hard task of clearing the land, creating lush fields and green alpine pastures suitable for developing their dairy farming prowess. With patience and skill, the monks started to uncover the secrets of the process that culminates in Abondance cheese. Working closely with the local peasant-farmers, they created a new way of life based on a sustainable business model.

In 1381, Abondance cheese was served up to the papal conclave that met in Avignon to elect the new Pope. This was the moment at which Abondance cheese gained its reputation for excellence.

In 1990, Abondance cheese production was awarded the status of Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée, guaranteeing that the process as a whole respects local produce, local methods of producing milk and making cheese, local animal husbandry and the traditional local maturation process.

 

Not just a valley – a cradle for raising livestock

Nestled in the northern mountains of the Haute-Savoie (French Alps), on the Swiss border, the valley of Abondance is the birthplace of an exceptional cheese that has inherited its name. After centuries of cheese making, Abondance cheese now enjoys AOC status: it is still produced exclusively in the mountains of the Haute-Savoie region using traditional cheese-making skills that date back generations and guarantee consistently high quality.

During the summer, many of the local dairy farmers put their cattle out to graze in the high mountain pastures, a belt of grassland that winds its way through the mountains at between 1,300 and 1,850 metres above sea level – a characteristic feature of the magnificent scenery of the northern Alps.

At this altitude the cows feed on nutrient-rich grass that enhances their lactation and gives Abondance cheese its special flavour. Then, as the green pastures of summer turn into the snowy slopes of winter – often popular with skiers – the cows are tucked up in warm, cosy barns where they feast on summer hay.

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The Abondance cow

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In the summer, the staple feed of Abondance cattle is pasture grass. In the winter, they feed on hay: fermented feed is strictly off limits!

Only three breeds of cattle are authorised for use in Abondance dairy production: the local Tarine (also known as Tarentaise), Montbéliarde and – of course – Abondance breeds!

For over 15 centuries Abondance cattle have adapted to the harsh climate, rugged terrain and difficult conditions on the mountainsides.

The Abondance cow is easy to recognise: she has a mahogany-brown coat and attractive, mahogany-brown eye patches (“spectacles”).

  

Numbers that count

2400 tonnes

About 60
Abondance farm producers..
About 15
cheese makers and maturers.
About 200
milk producers.

A minimum maturation period of

100 days.

1990
Abondance is awarded AOC status.
Weight of one cheese wheel :
6 à 12kg

 

Cheese-making 

The secrets

Abondance cheese is made by hand in the traditional way, by the combined efforts of some 60 farm producers and local craft cooperatives known as “fruitières” (literally, “fruit trees”), using milk supplied by local dairy farmers.
All production and maturation sites must be located within the geographical area specified by the AOC/PDO labels.
From the very start of the process through to the moment the final product has fully matured, the skills of each dairy farmer, cheese maker and maturer are what make Abondance cheese so special and unique.

 

The various stages of production:

  • The whole, raw milk is poured into a copper cauldron, then curdled by adding rennet. The resulting curds are sliced, then heated.
  • The farm producer slices the curds by hand using a tranche-caillé (a wire-framed slicer). Then, using the linen cloth tied around his neck, he pours out the curd grains, leaving the whey behind.
  • The curds are poured into a circular mould which eventually gives the cheese wheel its characteristically concave sides.
  • The cheese is then salted and placed on spruce planks in a cool, moist ripening room (a “maturing cave”), where it is left to mature for at least three months.

Come and enjoy our cheese – visit the Itinéraires des fromages de Savoie website.

 

 The producers

Download the complete list of Abondance producers

 

The syndicat

The Syndicat Interprofessionnel du Fromage Abondance (SIFA) – the Abondance Cheese Craft Collective – is a collective body that unites all the stakeholders in the Abondance production chain: dairies, farm producers, cheese makers and maturers (ripeners).

Collective decisions are taken by a Conseil d’Administration (management board) consisting of representative stakeholders from each of the communities listed above. First established on April 17, 1985, SIFA pursues the following mandates:

  • Preserving the AOC/PDO status of Abondance
  • Improving the quality of the cheese and cheese-making process
  • Developing the product and promoting the brand

If you would like further information, please feel free to contact us.