Fontina is a semi-soft mountain cheese from Valle d'Aosta. The name Fontina seems to come from a pasture called Fontin, where this cheese is made. Other sources link it to the village of Fontinaz. The name may also come from the old French term "fontis" or "fondis" used to denote this cheese's special melting ability when heated. From the 18th century onwards, the name Fontina was referred to to denote a particular type of cheese made from cow's milk, from the indigenous genus "pezzata rossa valdostana" in the valleys of the region. The geographical setting in which Fontina was born and bred is the unique mountain setting of the Valle d'Aosta, an Alpine valley with a distinctive climate, and flora and fauna rarely found elsewhere. Valdostana, a native cattle breed, is bred in this region. The native Valdostana makes it possible to transform grass, the abundant resource of the mountain region, into an original cheese product.
Production method: After adding calf rennet to milk obtained from a single milking, the curds are cooked at a temperature exceeding 36°C and then dry salted and have an average maturation period of 3 months.
The botanical composition of the pastures and meadows (a result of the dry summer climate of the Alpine valley) and the biochemical uniqueness of the milk from the Valdostana breed form the basis for 'Fontina' as a name of origin. In addition to the resilience of native breeds and the use of local fodder, the bond with the region is based on the following factors:
- cheese making techniques that are part of the local tradition,
- Using raw whole milk obtained from a single milking (two milkings per day), delivery as soon as possible,
- the natural presence of bacterial flora and characteristic flavors (for this reason, the milk does not undergo thermization during the first cheese making stages),
- Specific characteristics of the ripening process, which takes place at temperatures between 5 °C and 12 °C and at least 90% RH up to saturation.
A casein label is affixed, which clearly identifies each Fontina wheel produced, containing an alphanumeric code and a stylized image of a mountain.