Fontina is a cow's milk cheese that has been made in the Italian Alpine region of Valle d'Aosta since the 13th century. It is a semi-hard, full fat, semi-cooked cheese made from the unpasturised milk of the red or black spotted Valdostana cows. There are two milkings a day and the Fontina cheese is produced no more than two hours after each milking. After production the cheese is left to age for a minimum of three months. It is made throughout the year but the best batches are produced during the summer months when the cows are fed with only lush, rich grass.
In appearance, it has a natural, thin, orange/brown rind and the soft cheese is a pale creamy colour, often with small holes. It has a milk fat content around 45% and an earthy, mushroom-like intense flavour. Matured Fontina has a milder, more nutty flavour and is classed as a hard cheese, whereas young Fontina is a pungent soft cheese which melts well and is often used for fondue.
Fontina is particularly good with roast meats and is often combined with truffles. It is a good cheese to have with full-bodied, fruity red wines.
The production of Fontina is managed and controlled by the 'Consorzio Produttori Fontina' and in 1996 it received the European Union's Protected Designation of Origin (D.O.P.). In 2016 The Wall Street Journal included Fontina in its list of the 26 best cheeses in the world.
There are many different varieties of Fontina cheese around the world with many derivatives of the name, including Fontal, Fontella, Fontinella and Fontine. True Fontina cheese is only produced in Valle d'Aosta and it can be identified by the Consortium Stamp of the Matterhorn together with the word 'Fontina' and the letters D.O.P.