The Capital of Comté and home of Germ Theory

As well as pioneering a whole new area of scientific study, it’s said that during the 19th century Louis Pasteur single-handedly saved the beer and wine industries in France. Just dwell on that for a moment. Had Pasteur not discovered that microorganisms cause fermentation and disease, and invented pasteurization to make food and alcohol safe to consume, the French wine industry might have collapsed.

Imagine just how much worse the world we inhabit today would be if that had happened. It makes me shudder. Pasteur was born in Dole, just north of the small Jura town of Arbois where he spent his childhood and much of his adult life. He lived and worked in the three-story Maison de Louis Pasteur. The River Cuisance flows next to the ivy-covered house that retains the original living and laboratory spaces of the Pasteur family.

Église Saint Just, Arbois, France
Arbois, France
Pont des Capucins and Tour de la Gloriette, Arbois, France
Pont des Capucins, Arbois, France
Arbois, France
Pont des Capucins, Arbois, France

It would be fair to say that the denizens of Arbois have gone ‘full Pasteur’. His image and name can be spotted all over the town. Schools, squares and buildings, hairdressers and garages, all carry the name of this adoptive son. I don’t begrudge them this, Pasteur spent much time in his laboratory here proving the germ theory of disease. Not only that, he invented the vaccines against anthrax and rabies. The man was a genius.

It’s no coincidence that Pasteur chose to live in a wine producing region, as well as a rich agricultural area famed for its cheese. He was active in making these industries better and safer. The Pasteur connection makes Arbois internationally famous, but the town itself is an attractive and easy going spot. Old stone houses line the streets and pleasant squares are dotted around the town.

Sitting in the midst of its own Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée, Arbois would be a good spot from which to explore the region, not to mention wine tasting at several wineries in the town. On a hot August day, we wandered the quiet streets and walked the banks of the river before having lunch at a restaurant filled with local people. Here I was advised to have a regional speciality, the Saucisse de Morteau.

It’s a shame Pasteur didn’t turn his attention to sausage making, because it was a decision I was still regretting the following day. That culinary disappointment aside, this is an area rich in foodie traditions. Arbois might have been our destination, but to reach the home of Pasteur we passed through rich agricultural land dotted with bell-wearing cows en route to Poligny, known as the Capital of Comté.

Comté is one of France’s more famous food exports, the deliciously nutty flavour having won hearts and minds all over the world. The making of Comté is rigorously regulated to ensure that traditional processes are followed at all times. Only two cow breeds, Montbéliarde and Simmental, are allowed to provide milk for Comté, and the cheese is matured in caves in the Jura mountains. Unsurprisingly, it has its own Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée.

We stopped in Poligny for one reason only, they have a brand new cheese museum, La Maison du Comté, housed in golden buildings – to reflect the colour of the cheese perhaps? We started in the old town centre, the Place des Déportés, home to at least two cheese shops and cow statues. Home to around 4,000 people, it didn’t take long to see most of a town that in medieval times was fortified, before going to La Maison du Comté.

La Maison du Comté, Poligny, France
Landscape and cows near Poligny, France
Tour de la Sergenterie, Poligny, France
Église Saint-Hippolyte, Poligny, France
Arbois, France
Place des Déportés, Poligny, France

So seriously do they take their cheese in these parts that the history of Comté can only be explored on a ninety minute guided tour. We took a quick decision that our time would be better spent actually eating Comté rather than exploring its history, and headed off to one of the cheese shops at the Place des Déportés.

1 thought on “The Capital of Comté and home of Germ Theory

  1. Great cheesy story😀 but there is a lot of evidence that germ theory is just that, a theory that benefited a select section of society.

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