With the cold weather starting to bite, an "Alpine Island" has suddenly materialized in front of the cheese counter at Di Bruno Bros. in the Ben Franklin building.

Always among my favorites among those sturdy wheels is Comté, the classic 80-pounder from Jura with nutty tones and buttery richness that is the essential melter atop a good French onion soup. But with mountain cheese, age matters.

And the difference between DB's standard 10-month-old Comté and the "Symphonie," a grand cru wheel aged two years in a subterranean former army barracks that dates to the Franco-Prussian War, is extraordinary.

So is the price, at $39.99 a pound. But one bite of this winter-only specialty says it all: the velvety firmness sparks with flavor crystals that turn up the volume on the toasty nuts, roasty onions, and a brown-butter savor that just lingers on and on, just as one of the world's greatest cheeses should.

- Craig LaBan

Symphonie "Grand Cru" 24-month-old Comté, $39.99 a pound; Marcel Petite "Essex" Comté, $24.99 a pound, at most Di Bruno Bros. locations; dibruno.com