There is no doubt that cheese tasting is an art form and it takes a pretty long time and effort to really nail it.
There are a number of cheese tasting events across the UK, but the best way to learn is probably in your own home. To help you along your cheese journey, let’s look at all of the elements behind the cheese.
Milk – where would we be without you?
We all know that cheese can’t exist without milk. In fact the milk of different animals provides a range of different tastes and even creates unique textures too. Once you’re used to the different flavours and textures you’ll be able to recognise them in an instant.
The four main types of milk use to create cheese are:
- Water buffalo – mainly used to make mozzarella
- Sheep – provides a sweet, nutty, tangy taste
- Cow – provides the most common type of cheese and found in most popular blue cheeses
- Goat – offers a sour and grassy taste
Now let’s talk cheese rind
Cheese rind is almost as important as milk when it comes to cheese, so let’s try to understand how this can impact cheese tasting.
There are five different types of cheese rind and it’s always recommended that you give the ring a taste – unless of course it’s made from wax.
A wrinkled ring which you normally see on Crottin cheese is caused by a specific yeast which is used by many cheesemakers. However, a white rind is what appears on cheeses such as Brie and Camembert and is interestingly a form of penicillium mould.
A cheese with a natural rind – or in other words has no mould or additives – is simply the hardened air dried outer of a cheese such as Stilton. While a washed rind has the strongest smell of them all and has normally been washed in a mixture of different liquids – including brandy, wine and beer – which will then encourage bacterial growth.
The final rind that’s common is the wax rind which you should never eat and is traditionally added when the cheese has been made.
Texture really is everything
The texture of the cheese can refer to its visual consistency or its mouthfeel: the sensation created by food or drink on our mouth. Whereas it’s visual consistency can be whether it looks soft like fresh cheeses, semi soft like brie or hard and firm like Parmesan.
In order to know your cheese you need to be able to pinpoint what the texture is and how it differs from others.
Now we move on to flavour
The flavour of the cheese will be a combination of taste and smell. You’ll be able to describe the flavour of the cheese using its aroma and taste but it’s also important to bear in mind that you should smell cheese before you taste it to get the complete concept.
Softer, fresher cheeses may also have some elements of the animal’s diet in its taste including grass, hay and in some cases wild flowers so be sure to analyse the taste.
10 best UK cheeses
Now that you’ve mastered what you should be looking out for during your cheese tasting extravaganza, here are the UK’s top 10 favourite cheeses to get you on your way:
- Stilton – try this with barley wine or beer for a mixture of sweet and sour
- Appleby’s Cheshire – this one is made for English Ale
- Colston Basset Stilton – drink this with an aged tawny
- Montgomery’s Cheddar – try a Somerset cider to get the most out of this
- Innes Log – this is actually light enough to go with champagne
- Kirksham’s Lancashire – try this with a nice English ale
- St James’ – a glass of IPA will go nicely with this
- Tunworth – a fruity white wine will go down a treat
- Hafod – this cracking Welsh cheddar needs a nice glass of IPA
- Stawley – a Loire Chenin Blanc is just what this cheese needs
Now that you have these fantastic tips and are equipped with the knowledge of what we Brits like to eat cheese-wise, there’s no reason you can’t go cheese tasting like a pro!
Once you’ve nailed the smell, taste and texture, you’ll be sniffing the rind like the connoisseur you were meant to be. Start tasting and order your cheese hamper from Serenata!