Beaufort encapsulates everything that is magical, traditional, and truly awesome about cheese, and demonstrates how, in a harsh and rugged terrain, humans have worked alongside Mother Nature and adapted to the rhythm and demands of the seasons. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the local church and landowners of the Savoie-Beaufortain in the French Alps, instigated a widespread program to remove much of the woodlands to create mountain pastures. These pastures are unploughed and unfenced, and contain the thousands of different species of wild herbs, meadow flowers, and grasses that provide the native Abondance, and Tarine cows with fresh grazing in summer, and aromatic hay in winter. The resulting milk is sweet, nutty, aromatic, and complex. It takes the milk of about 35 cows to make one Beaufort cheese. Because of this, herdsmen have, since ancient times, combined their milk, forming cooperatives, and shared the tasks of herding, milking, cheesemaking, and maturing. Cheese produced in the lush summer pastures is known as Beaufort d'Alpage; those produced from a single herd that graze above 9,921ft are Chalet d'Alpage, and are some of the largest artisan cheeses in the world. Winter cheeses, known as Beaufort d'Hiver, are paler as they are made when the cows enjoy a more concentrated diet of hay cut from the mountain pasture. Beaufort is another cheese that is protected by the AOC label, and can only be made in an area covering approximately 1,112 acres in the Rhône-Alpes' Beaufortain, Tarentaise, and Maurienne valleys, as well as a section of the Val d'Arly. FLAVOUR: Young Beaufort is firm but not hard. It melts in the mouth, and has a rich, sweet, complex flavour. The Chalet d'Alpage is aged longer and has more honeyed, aromatic notes and a long, savory tang that hints of meadow flowers. HOW TO SAVOUR: This cheese should be eaten in generous mouthfuls accompanied by a bottle of the best Pinot Noir you can afford. Fresh walnuts also make a great partner. Beaufort's rich sweetness is also excellent with Champagne, as well as Chardonnay and Riesling, but avoid dry whites that take away its flavor.