This Cave in a Swiss Mountain Is Used to Age 156,000 Wheels of Cheese
If you like cheese — and really, who doesn’t? — you’ve probably picked up a package of Emmi Le Gruyère before. But chances are you had no idea that before being packaged and transported across the Atlantic, the cheese was carefully ripened in a cave within a Swiss mountain.
Kaltbach Cave, which was formed from a prehistoric seabed, is found within Santenberg mountain a few miles from Lucerne, Switzerland. And it just so happens the cave’s cool, subterranean conditions are just right for ripening cheese. Around 156,000 wheels of cheese — mainly gruyère and emmentaler — are stored in the cave, which stretches for over a mile.
Kaltbach Cave’s perfect climate — 50 degrees year-round — is ideal for aging cheese, and the river that runs through the cave keeps humidity levels at around 96 percent. In addition, the cave’s natural climate and mineral deposits provide a unique aging process that gives Emmi cheeses a distinct taste, smell, and the company’s signature dark brown rind. Each wheel of cheese is kept in the cave for a minimum of nine months until it has the right aroma and texture.
Caring for the cheese is an important job, and Kaltbach Cave’s cavemasters are pros in the art of “cheese refinement,” which includes turning, washing, and brushing each wheel of cheese with a special brine solution. According to Atlas Obscura, the job is one that’s transferred down through generations of Kaltbach cavemasters.
The cave itself was first used as a space for aging cheese in 1953 when local cheese makers ran out of storage space and began keeping their cheeses in the Kaltbach Cave. The cave was acquired by Emmi in 1993 and the company has been using the natural habitat to store and age their finest products there ever since.
To visit, you can book a tour of the cave through Emmi’s website.