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Maison Agour's Guillaume Dupin Discusses Portfolio Differentiation

Maison Agour's Guillaume Dupin Discusses Portfolio Differentiation

Thursday, August 3rd, 2023

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Guillaume Dupin, Export Manager of French cheesemaker Maison Agour. He enlightened me on the company’s top differentiator: Its style of cheese is only made in the Basque Country and isn’t found anywhere else.

Guillaume Dupin, Export Manager, Maison Agour“The region offers ideal conditions for small-scale, high-quality farming and the production of premium milk that comes with it: Oceanic weather (high humidity, winters aren’t too cold, summers aren’t too hot), excellent grass quality, mountain terrain, a long-lasting tradition of sheep’s farming, transhumance, and mountain shepherds,” Guillaume told me. “Local breeds of sheep, if providing low yield, make a high fat, high protein milk, fueled by their grazing in the mountains on rich pastureland. The milk is then transformed by fromagers with ancestral heritage and cheesemaking skills.”

Agour’s portfolio is quite large, as the company has always tried to innovate and launch new recipes. Ossau Iraty—an uncooked pressed paste made with local breed sheep’s milk and aged for a minimum of four months—is Agour’s main product. The maker pushes the aging up to over a year, and is the last dairy to do so on wood boards.

Maison Agour's style of cheese is only made in the Basque Country and isn’t found anywhere else

Opari, our mixed goat and sheep’s milk tomme, is the perfect mix of richness and tanginess for summer. Petit Agour, is a smaller (1.5 lb), more versatile format,” Guillaume continued. “We also make a range of soft paste cheeses, with a sheep’s milk brie style cheese called Saint Sauveur des Basques, a sheep’s crottin called Pikorra, and the famous among specialty cheesemongers Arpea, which I describe as a cloud of sheep’s milk.”

In the last few years, Agour has also ventured into Bethmale-style Pyrénées cheeses and launched a Blue cheese called Urdiña (which means blue in the Basque Language) both in sheep’s and goat’s milk. The company’s latest is a range of smoked sheep, goat, or cow’s milk 1.5 lb wheels called Ketua (which means smoke in Basque).

“As the last independent, family-owned dairy in the Basque Country, we are making a product we believe in, and we don’t compromise on quality for yield or cost. We are a small producer, but our experience with large retail customers is long as we work with many in Europe and the United States. We have in-house export professionals who are dedicated to understanding customers’ needs from all around the world. We always adjust and adapt to these, and this is one of our strengths,” Guillaume added. “Working with Agour is working in a real partnership and we will provide all types of support along the way.”

Maison Agour’s portfolio is quite large, as the company has always tried to innovate and launch new recipes

On top of Agour’s dedication to an excellent product, it invests heavily in sustainability efforts across its operations.

“Our concept of sustainability includes all aspects of our ecosystem: environment, animals, and people. This includes producing 50 percent of our electricity with solar panels (aiming for over 100 percent in the next few years), guaranteeing the highest standards of animal welfare with reasonable farming practices, species conservation actions, and a skilled, trained, resilient, healthy, and happy team,” Guillaume concluded.

As someone who has tried these cheeses for herself, I can tell you they belong in all United States specialty departments. Stay tuned as we keep an eye on this formidable player.

Maison Agour