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10 Best Vorarlberg Cheeses

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Various packs of regional cheese in Vorarlberg, Austria

The small western Austrian province of Vorarlberg is understandably renowned for its cheeses. Over 60 cheeses are produced here and Vorarlberg’s cheeses are diverse, nuanced, and exquisite. From mild and nutty to strong and bold flavors – there is something to suit every palate. So, how to choose one cheese from the next when the options are so many? Below we offer a list of some of the most stellar Voralberg cheese. Here are 10 of our most beloved Vorarlberg cheeses that ought to be part of your repertoire.

We would like to let you know that our last visit to Vorarlberg was sponsored by the Vorarlberg Tourism Board (Vorarlberg Tourismus) and the Bregenzerwald Tourism Board (Bregenzerwald Tourismus). However, all our opinions are our own 🙂

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History of Cheese in Vorarlberg

Before we start listing the different types of cheese in Vorarlberg, let’s quickly delve into the history and production of cheese in Vorarlberg.

Cheese has long been an institution in Vorarlberg and cheese making is a strong part of its heritage. Its lush Alpine meadows are ideal for keeping livestock. Cattle breeding and dairy farming, concentrated in the alpine areas, have been associated with the province for over 2,000 years. 

Milk and milk products formed the basis of the staple diet of Vorarlberg’s mountain dwellers, and in winter were necessary for their survival. With the advent of technology and infrastructure, cheese making also spread to the lower valleys.

Today, about 60% of Vorarlberg’s milk yield goes into cheese production! One of the region’s greatest exports, it is also an important part of Vorarlberg’s economy.

How is Vorarlberg Cheese Made

Cheese in Vorarlberg starts off like most cheeses – a useful blend of enzymes called rennet is added to fresh milk, which creates solid curds and liquid whey. The curd is then shaped into blocks or circular slabs and left to mature, initially in brine and later in a cold store.

Many Vorarlberg cheeses are made with raw milk, which comes from cows that are fed with fresh grass. The milk has fewer germs and has twice the amount of omega-3 fatty acids. Hay milk gives the cheeses their distinctive flavor and unique aroma.

Depending on the type of cheese, the maturing, or ripening process ranges from a few days to several months, or even years. The longer the ripening period, the harder the cheese will be.

The cheeses, however, are not mass produced— they’re made in small, strictly controlled dairies to ensure that the product is made according to manufacturing standards and is properly cured to produce its own natural, protective rind.

In some high Alpine areas, cheeses are still handmade entirely by traditional methods. If you really want to get hands-on experience about how cheese is produced, I recommend going on the dairy farming tour in the village of Egg. You can even make your own cheese on the tour.

Best Vorarlberg Cheeses

In our one week in Vorarlberg, we put our stomachs on the line and went through a wide assortment of cheeses, probably gaining a couple of pounds in the process. Here are 10 of our favorite cheeses from Vorarlberg (in no specific order).

1. Emmental

Emmental Cheese in Vorarlberg, Austria

Probably the most iconic cheese on this list, Emmental is one of the most popular of all Vorarlberg cheeses. The cheese is characterized by its pale yellow color, smooth texture, and is famous for its marble-sized holes, which appear during the maturation process.

Emmental cheese in Vorarlberg is made using fresh hay milk in accordance with old cheese-making traditions and matured for a minimum of four months. 

Emmental is a mild cheese with a nutty flavor and effuses subtle notes of pineapple, citrus fruits, marzipan, and meadow flowers. Traditionally served sliced or cut into cubes, the cheese is often served as a snack or used for sandwiches and for cooking. 

2. Vorarlberg Alp Cheese

Vorarlberg Alp Cheese (Alpkäse) is a hard cheese made from raw milk that is produced only during the summer months between June and September. During the ripening stage, the cheese wheels are periodically hand-rubbed with salt and aged on pine boards for 3 to 12 months and in some cases up to 24 months. 

Alp Cheese is probably my favorite out of all the excellent cheeses in Vorarlberg. It is tantalizingly aromatic and depending on the degree of maturity, is spicy to piquant in taste.

Vorarlberg Alp Cheese is registered as “Protected Designation of Origin” (PDO). This means that the cheese must be produced, processed, and prepared in a certain geographical area and is subject to strict quality standards.

3. Camembert

Traditional Camembert cheese on a wooden board

One of our all-time favorite cheeses, Camembert is a world-class cheese easily recognizable by its luminous white mold rind that is reminiscent of barren fields covered in snow. Aged to rich, creamy perfection, the cheese is toasty, buttery, and ever so lactic!

The pearly interior of Camembert is wonderfully smooth and holds its consistency throughout. Kissed with earthy and sweet tones, this cheese delights with its slight hints of caramelized butter and foraged mushrooms.

Camembert’s creamy and supple texture melts wonderfully in the mouth creating an extremely pleasant taste on the palette. It is a perfect pairing with a crusty baguette, fruits, crackers, and hazelnuts.

4. Vorarlberg Mountain Cheese

Various packs of Vorarlberg Mountain Cheese (Bergkäse) in a shop

Similar in profile to the Alp Cheese, Vorarlberg Mountain Cheese (Bergkäse) is a hard cheese made from raw milk. The chief difference between Alp Cheese and Mountain Cheese is that the former is only made in the summer months while Mountain cheese is made in the valley all year round.

Mountain Cheese is matured for 3 to 9 months and in some cases up to 24 months. The long ripening time gives rise to a tangy, tasty cheese with a distinctive flavor.

Mountain Cheese is a beautiful-looking cheese with pea-sized round holes and has a wonderful texture that is compact and smooth. Full and smooth on the palate, the cheese effuses notes of pineapple, honey, vanilla, meadow flowers, and toasted white bread.

Just like Alp Cheese, Vorarlberg Mountain Cheese is registered as “Protected Designation of Origin” (PDO).

5. Tilsiter

Slices of Tilsiter Cheese on a plate

Tilsiter is a scrumptious semi-firm cheese with a springy texture that is dotted with irregularly spaced tiny holes. It may range from ivory to light yellow in color, and is cultured from cow’s milk.

I just love Tilsiter’s mildly pungent aroma and tangy taste that is tender, slightly salty, and fruity with spicy undertones. The cheese is very versatile and works well in both cold and warm dishes. 

It can be sliced (cold cuts) for sandwiches, salads, and cheese platters and also melts beautifully so it can be used in casseroles, gratins, and sauces.

6. Bachensteiner

Bachensteiner cheese in Vorarlberg, Austria

The highly sought-after Bachensteiner cheese is one of the best cheeses to try in Vorarlberg. Made from cow’s milk, its light yellow to white dough is creamy and silky smooth and melts wonderfully on the palate.

The fruity and delicately floral Bachensteiner is a seriously delicious cheese that tastes slightly piquant to slightly tart. It boasts complex flavors with notes of biscuit and white bread.

7. Sura Kees

Traditional Sura Kees from Vorarlberg, Austria

Sura Kees (sour cheese) is a skimmed milk specialty cheese from the Montafon Valley region of Vorarlberg. It has been produced there since the mid-13th century and even today it is made from skimmed raw milk without the addition of cultures.

Although Sura Kees is a skimmed milk cheese, it is certainly not deficient in flavor. It is low in fat and cholesterol and high in protein meaning it is great for the calorie-conscious. The cheese is served either fresh or matured.

I found fresh Sura Kees to be savory and mildly aromatic, and it tasted a little tart. Mature Sura Kees on the other hand gives off a marginally sour odor, is slightly piquant, and has a subtle salty quality.

8. Cave Rebel

Cave Rebel (Höhlen Rebell) is a cave-aged cheese hailing from Sulzberg, where it’s manufactured by Sulzberger Käserebellen Sennerei. The cheese has a distinctive black rind and its texture is hard, crumbly, and compact.

I loved Cave Rebel cheese for its alluring aromas, which are intense and nutty, reminiscent of malt and dark caramel. Cheese aficionados will love its grassy and floral flavors as the creamy cheese breaks up easily on the palate.

9. Räßkäse

Traditional Räßkäse (Rässkäse) on display in Vorarlberg, Austria

Similar to the Tilsiter, Räßkäse (Rässkäse) is a particularly tasty, fully aromatic semi-hard cheese made from pasteurized milk. It is an indispensable part of Vorarlberg’s cuisine and is one of the cheeses used in the province’s so-called national dish of “Kässpätzle.”

In Vorarlberg, the expression “räß” means spicy or intense in taste and true to this Räßkäse does have a very intense, piquant, unmistakable taste. 

10. Bauern Rebel

Bauern Rebel cheese in Vorarlberg, Austria

Bauern Rebel is a creamy soft cheese, which like the Cave Rebel, is manufactured by the Sulzberger Käserebellen Sennerei. The cheese is made from pasteurized milk and stands out for its conspicuous aroma of buttermilk, light caramel, and toasted white bread.

I like creamy cheeses and love how the Bauern Rebel’s smooth texture melts pleasantly gently on the palate.

Where To Buy and Sample Vorarlberg Cheese

Andelsbuch cheese center (Bregenzerwälder Käsehaus) in Vorarlberg, Austria

Many of Vorarlberg’s cheese dairies have shops where their own cheeses are offered for sale. A wide range of locally produced cheeses, including some of the most highly sought-after varieties, can also be found on market stalls all over Vorarlberg. 

Some larger towns have specialist cheese shops, which stock a large array of Vorarlberg cheeses. You can also purchase high-quality cheeses at the supermarket, either pre-packed or cut to order from a chilled counter. The more mature a cheese, the pricier it is likely to be.

One of the must-see attractions in Vorarlberg, especially if you’re nuts about cheese, is the Bregenz Forest Cheese Road (Käsestraße Bregenzerwald), a union of experts who organize events, tasting sessions, and educate guests about the know-how of cheese manufacturing.

For sampling the best Vorarlberg cheeses, it’s best to just stroll into one of the numerous Alpine dairy farms along the Bregenz Forest Cheese Road and enjoy a delectable cheese platter. 

Two notable highlights include the humongous cheese cellar in the village of Lingenau (Lingenau Käsekeller) and the cheese center in the village of Andelsbuch. Besides feasting on sumptuous cheeses, you will also learn lots of interesting tidbits about Vorarlberg’s culture and agricultural history at the Andelsbuch cheese center.

Cheese wheels maturing on wooden planks inside the Lingenau cheese cellar

In the Lingenau cheese cellar (Käsekeller Lingenau), as many as 32,000 cheese wheels mature on wooden planks making it the largest storage and maturing center for mountain and alpine cheese in Europe. Through a glass wall, you can admire the cellar corridors that seem to go on forever and observe the automated forklift tending to the cheeses.

Do you agree with our list? What are some of your favorite cheeses from Vorarlberg? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

About Mihir

Hi there, I'm Mihir! I was born in India, raised there and in Australia before spending nearly a decade in Finland. I suffer from chronic fernweh and am always looking forward to a new adventure. Besides traveling, my other loves are my beloved cats, architecture, art, craft beer, classic movies, history, cricket, and Australian Rules Football. Oh, there's also my partner in crime Jacky who's not too bad either 😉

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