Produced in the Aosta Valley near the Italian/Swiss border, traditional Fontina is made from raw cow's milk and is aged over 90 days.
Fontina production dates back to the Middle Ages. According to tradition, the recipe is rumored to have been passed on to the early inhabitants of the Val d'Aosta by a near-mythical man called Sarvadzo, who taught the people how to make this unpasteurized, full-fat cheese, and mature it in caves for at least three months.
Today, milk for production comes from the Valdaostana cows that graze on the Alpine pastures (which are dotted with wildflowers and native herbs) at the foot of Mont Blanc. It takes about 1.25 gallons of milk to make 1lb. of Fontina, and there are about 400 producers in the Fontina consortium, including industrial, cooperative, artisanal and farmhouse cheesemakers.
After production, cheeses are brushed and salted on alternating days for the first three months to help in the rind development.
With an aromatic, slightly pungent aroma, the rind of Fontina is thin and ranges from reddish yellow to dark brown in color.
The texture of Fontina is very smooth, dense and supple, with occasional holes, and the paste is pale yellow.
Flavors of Fontina are subtle but complex, and while it makes an excellent and versatile cheese for cooking, it is also delicious for straightforward eating. There are savory notes of fruit, grass, earth and cellar, balanced by a gentle sweetness.