France is renowned for its cheeses. You could try a different French cheese every day of the year and never get through all the options. Wherever you go in France you’ll find specialty cheeses from that region. Roquefort of course comes from Roquefort in the Auvergne, Normandy have Camembert and Boursin, while the Ile de France in eastern France produces Brie. The Alps is best known for its soft and creamy Reblochon cheese, the key ingredient of the famous Tartiflette. No holiday to Samoens and the Grand Massif is complete without a Tartiflette, that’s for sure. There’s no shortage of Reblochon cheese here either, because it’s made right here in Samoens!
All throughout the Giffre Valley are authentic working farms that supply the region’s dairy cooperative, La Fruitiere de Samoens, where you can buy lots of great local produce and catch a glimpse of the famous cheese being made. It’s worth a visit when you’re next holidaying in Samoens, but it’s not the only place you’ll find local producers of cheese. Reblochon isn’t the only locally produced cheese you’ll find either. Many of the valley’s local farms also produce and sell their own cheeses and other products, and as we discovered there’s nothing quite like farm fresh produce direct from the source. We had the pleasure recently of meeting some of our local farmers, who shared with us another magnificent side of life here in the Grand Massif.
Did you know that cheese is basically curdled milk? First a culture is added to the milk,
which raises its acidity. Then, an enzyme is added, which causes the milk to separate
into curds and whey. The whey is either discarded or used to make other types of cheese.
The final step in the process is then aging or ‘maturing’ the curd.
Tucked away at the end of the valley near the stunning Cirque-du-Fer-a-Cheval is a very special place – La Bergerie du Lochet. This charming Savoyard farm, run by the delightful Karine Richard and her husband Fabrice, is a unique destination producing some of the best cheese and yoghurts we’ve ever tasted. And there isn’t a cow in sight! Karine breeds heritage Thônes et Marthod sheep. She is one of approximately 15 farmers in the entire Savoie and Haute Savoie region combined who produces milk with this breed. And boy does she do it well!
A true local from Sixt and a farmer’s daughter to boot, Karine has always loved sheep. She is passionate about her work, a calling she returned to much later in life having first worked successfully as a teacher. Since making the decision to open La Bergerie du Lochet with her husband ten years ago, she hasn’t looked back. They are the perfect team too. Karine looks after a heard of about 100 ewes, and a very handsome ram, while Fabrice has his own heard of around 80 sheep, which he raises for meat. Not only will you find delicious ewe’s milk cheeses like Tomme, Crottins, and an assortment of fresh natural and seasoned cheeses, but you can also buy lamb and cold deli meats direct from the farm. Karine and Fabrice welcome visitors to their farm shop all year-round. You’ll find them every Monday to Saturday from 6pm-7.30pm at 2357 Route du Fer-a-Cheval in Sixt. Karine also has a stall at the weekly Samoens Market and an assortment of her products are available in the Morillon, Samoens and Sixt mini-marts. You can sample her products in some of the local restaurants too – that’s how good they are!
- The Thones and Marthod is a heritage breed, with a quiet and calm temperament. They can adapt to difficult winter conditions and were once housed in reblochon cellars to maintain the constant temperature and humidity required for the refining process.
- One ewe produces approximately 1L of milk per day.
- 6L of ewe’s milk is required to make 1kg of cheese.
We were also lucky enough to meet Aurore Delesmillieres recently, who very warmly welcomed us to her and her husband Bernard Mogenet’s dairy in Vercland. From its sunny outlook just above Samoens, the aptly named GAEC Le Criou takes in stunning views of the majestic Criou mountain. It’s a beautiful setting, with large surrounding pastures just perfect for Aurore and Bernard’s heard of 100 or so Abondance cows, a maximum 50 of which are milking at any one time. They are gorgeous animals each clearly loved by Aurore, who has somehow managed to commit to memory the name of each and every one! We had the pleasure of meeting Jonquille (Daffodil in English), who loves a chin scratch and a cuddle. Ice-Cream wasn’t so keen, but when asked to pose for a photo she very willingly obliged.
Samoens locals through and through, both Aurore and Bernard have farming in their blood. Aurore moved away to complete her studies in agriculture and she also worked for several years managing a specialist fromagerie, but eventually a desire to return to Samoens and the Grand Massif became too much to resist. Her husband Bernard has always been here, taking over the family business some 25 years ago. They now work as a team of two, with most of the milk from their heard used by La Fruitiere de Samoens to make Reblochon. The small amount they keep, Aurore uses in her own delicious recipes. Her fresh cheeses are renowned throughout the valley, with the delectable Crioutin and Faisselle used by several local restaurants. Her products are also available in several local shops, but a visit to the farm is by far the best purchase option in our books. Aurore and Bernard welcome visitors to their farm shop all year-round. You’ll find them every Monday to Saturday from 5.45pm-7pm at 95 chemin du Bré, Vercland.
- An Abondance cow starts milking at around 3 years of age, after her first calf.
- Approximately 6000L of milk is produced per cow, per year.
- GAEC Le Criou produce approximately 280000L of milk per year!
- To make one Crioutin you need approximately 500mL of milk.
The Grand Massif truly is a place of hidden gems, its many local artisans and producers, and small family, run businesses a major part of its unique charm. A visit to La Bergerie du Lochet in Sixt, or GAEC Le Criou in Vercland is an absolute must the next time you’re holidaying in Morillon, Samoens or Sixt. The team at Alps Accommodation are always happy to recommend any number of other additional activities you can enjoy come winter or summer or any time of year for that matter!
And if you’d like to know more about the locals that make Samoens and the Grand Massif the spectacular destination that it is, be sure to follow our latest blog series.
Samoens' Unique Charm : A Land of Talents
Part 1 : The Beauty of a Not so Typical Ski Resort