AOP, a mark of quality

Cheese Valais brand Wallis Schweiz Switzerland Suisse

When you think of Valais, you think of Raclette du Valais AOP cheese. That’s just as well because its ambassador has so much to say about it – an interview with Eddy Baillifard in Bagnes. To start with, la raclette refers to the dish of melted cheese. According to its ambassador, raclette cheese is known as le raclette and that is what receives the AOP label.

With a cheesemaking grandfather, many summers spent in the mountain pastures and unconditional love for his region, Eddy Baillifard is Valaisan through and through. “I know the history of making raclette cheese inside out, from pasture to plate,” says our guest with a smile. “It’s in my blood.” He knows what he is talking about – so much so that he has become a renowned ambassador, in Switzerland and abroad, promoting raclette whenever he can. “I have been to the 2015 World Expo in Milan, Euro 2016 in Paris, and I was even at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea – all to promote the different varieties of Raclette du Valais AOP cheese that the region has to offer.” That is why raclette cheese is so special; there is not just one, there are many.

I know the history of making raclette cheese inside out, from pasture to plate. It’s in my blood.
Eddy Bailliard

It’s all about the pastures

When asked what makes each cheese unique, a smile flashes across Eddy Baillifard’s face. “Firstly, the pastures. You won’t get the same flavours in milk from cows grazing in the valley, in mountain pastures or on more wooded land. Since the flora that grow in each location are different, the taste of the milk will also vary. Made from raw milk, this cheese preserves its original flavours. Then, undeniably, the cheesemaker has a role to play. That’s where their expertise comes in.” Although the AOP specifications are very strict, Raclette du Valais AOP cheeses are somewhat like gourmet cuisine: even with the same ingredients and the same cooking time, you will never find the same flavour from one cheesemaker to the next. “The simplest way is to discover, taste and familiarise yourself with the different flavours that are so very intriguing. Don’t forget to pair them with a glass of Valais wine, of course!”

Racler – the art of scraping

If there’s one gesture you should master, it’s the raclage, the scraping. “The half-wheel of cheese must be removed from the heat source when it isn’t being served. You also need to keep a certain distance between the cheese and the heating element. It’s the small things that make all the difference,” explains Eddy Baillifard.

raclette from the valais - wood fire, cheese, Valais, Switzerland

Selecting an AOP cheese

In the supermarket aisles, we are spoiled for choice when it comes to raclette cheese. “It’s always better to opt for a Raclette du Valais AOP cheese, which perfectly captures the authenticity of the region in which it is produced. To discover different varieties, I’d recommend the packs that contain three kinds of cheese.” As for the order in which to taste the cheeses, the expert is very clear: “It is the same as wine. You should start with the youngest and end with the most mature and full-bodied cheeses. As an accompaniment, start with a glass of dry white wine and finish with something fruitier.” When it comes to texture, it should be smooth, not crumbly.

Bagnes Fromage, Valais, Switzerland

Text : Sophie Dürrenmatt Pictures of Eddy Bailliard : Nicolas de Neve

Published: October 2023

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