The cheese

The cheese
Keep in mind, these tips are from my own experience, I’m not a party organizer nor am I a sommelier or a turophile (a cheese connoisseur). I just love cheese, wine and spending time with my friends.

Wine and cheese pairing possibilities are endless. The first step is to understand a little bit more about cheese. Learning a bit more about cheese will help you pair correctly.

If you’re not already familiar with the various types ask for help. People at the cheese counter at most grocery stores love helping pick you out new cheeses. They’re the experts and can describe the flavour and texture profiles better than anyone. Don’t hesitate to ask for a sample before you buy. Most supermarkets will allow you to taste the cheeses before you buy. Furthermore, they can cut wedges of cheese from the big wheels in whatever size you want so you don’t buy too much for the crowd you’ll be serving.

There are multiple ways to describe, organize and classify cheese, including texture, milk type, and place of origin.

Categorizing cheeses by moisture content or firmness is a common but inexact practice. The lines between soft, semi-soft, semi-hard and hard are arbitrary, and many types of cheese are made in softer or firmer variants. The factor that controls cheese hardness is moisture content, which depends on the pressure with which it is packed into moulds, and upon aging time.

Regardless of classification system, many varieties of cheese cross over from one category to another. Several cheese styles can be sold to customers at many different ages, and therefore textures; can have a natural or waxed rind; and can be made from different milk types, and be produced in Europe and across the North America.

To simplify the strategy, below we explore some of the commons (maybe not exact) categories that cheese is talked about, organized, and described. But the easiest way to to understand a little bit more about each cheese and how to best pair them with wine.

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Young Fresh and Soft, Creamy Unripened Cheeses

Soft, spreadable cheeses that typically have a mild, lactic flavours accompanied by a tangy finish.

Fresh cheese is not ripened, aged or fermented during the manufacturing process or at any point during the lifespan of the cheese. These cheeses have a high moisture range of 40-80%, which greatly reduces their shelf life.

For these simplest cheeses, milk is curdled and drained, with little other processing.

In some countries, such as US, Federal law dictates that cheeses aged less than 60 days must be made from pasteurized milk/cream.

These can be made with cow, goat or sheep milk.

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Soft Cheese – Fresh – Cow’s milk cheese

Mild

Cheeses listed in this Mild quadrant pair well with light white wines and champagnes.

Boursin

Cream cheese

Ricotta

Stracchino or Crescenza

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Soft Cheese – Fresh – Goat’s milk cheese

Mild

Cheeses listed in this Mild quadrant pair well with light white wines and champagnes.

Chèvre or Fresh Chèvre (goat) or Goat cheese log or Chèvre log

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Stretched Curd and Brined

Mild

Cheeses listed in this Mild quadrant pair well with light white wines and champagnes.

Brined cheese, also sometimes referred to as pickled cheese is matured in a solution of brine (a high-concentration solution of salt in water) in an airtight or semi-permeable container. This process gives the cheese good stability, inhibiting bacterial growth even in hot countries.

Brined cheeses may be soft or hard, varying in moisture content and in colour and flavour, according to the type of milk used; though all will be rindless, and generally taste clean, salty and acidic when fresh, developing some piquancy when aged, and most will be white.

Brined cheese is the main type of cheese produced and eaten in the Middle East and Mediterranean areas.

Burrata

Fresh Mozzarella or Mozzarella fresco

Mozzarella di Bufala or Buffalo mozzarella or Mozzarella di Bufala Campana

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Soft and Brined

Mild

Cheeses listed in this Mild quadrant pair well with light white wines and champagnes.

Feta

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Soft-ripened and Bloomy-rind – Cow’s milk cheese

Mild

Cheeses listed in this Mild quadrant pair well with light white wines and champagnes.

These are cheeses that have a soft, smooth, and creamy texture. They are not pressed or cooked during the manufacturing process.

These are named for the bloom of white mold ripened on the outside of a soft cheese for a few days or weeks. They tend to be the richest and creamiest type of cheese, with a soft, spreadable texture. The soft rind is edible, and it has a stronger, funkier flavour than the interior.

Soft-ripened cheeses begin firm and rather chalky in texture, but are aged from the exterior inwards by exposing them to mold. The mold may be a velvety bloom of Penicillium camemberti that forms a flexible white crust and contributes to the smooth, runny, or gooey textures and more intense flavours of these aged cheeses.

Cheeses in this category are also characterized by the white bloomy mold development of Penicillium candidum. Although often accompanied by other fungus such as the yeast Geotrichum, the overall appearance of these cheeses is that they have a thin, white, flossy rind, encasing a soft or semi-soft interior paste that breaks down and becomes softer as the cheese matures.

With a moisture content of 50-75%, they are highly perishable and, depending on the temperature at which they are stored, they can ripen quickly, remaining at their peak of flavour for between 3-5 days.

Characteristic flavours include notes of mushrooms or truffle, and grassy or earthy flavours, although these should not eclipse the flavour of the milk and the cheese itself.

Brie

Camembert

Chaource

Neufchâtel or Coeur du Neufchatel

Robiola

Image by MichaelBrilot

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Soft Ripened and Bloomy-rind – Cow’s milk cheese – Double/Triple-crème cheeses

Mild

Cheeses listed in this Mild quadrant pair well with light white wines and champagnes.

Double cream cheeses are soft cheeses of cows’ milk enriched with cream so that their fat in dry matter (FDM or FiDM) content is 60–75%.

Triple cream cheeses are enriched to at least 75%.

Brillat-Savarin

Délice de Bourgogne

Saint Andre or Saint-André or St. Andre

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Soft-ripened and Bloomy-rind – Goat’s milk cheese

Mild

Cheeses listed in this Mild quadrant pair well with light white wines and champagnes.

Goat’s milk cheeses are often treated in a similar manner, sometimes with white molds and sometimes with blue.

***Crottin de Chavignol

***Very young Selles sur Cher

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Semi-soft/Semi-aged and medium-hard aged/Semi-hard Cheese

A little more firm and compact than soft cheese, the semi-soft category contains the largest variety of cheese.

Subtle but rich. They’re not spreadable, nor do they break in shards like a hard cheese. They tend to be creamy and fairly mild in flavour. Many are excellent to melt and perfect to slice.

Semi-soft cheeses have a high moisture content and tend to be mild-tasting.

Some cheeses are semi-soft in younger styles, while when aged, their texture turns hard.

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Semi-soft and Brined

Mild

Cheeses listed in this Mild quadrant pair well with light white wines and champagnes.

Brined or pickled cheese is matured in a solution of brine (a high-concentration solution of salt in water) in an airtight or semi-permeable container. This process gives the cheese good stability, inhibiting bacterial growth even in hot countries. Brined cheeses may be soft or hard, varying in moisture content, and in colour and flavour, according to the type of milk used; though all will be rindless, and generally taste clean, salty and acidic when fresh, developing some piquancy when aged, and most will be white.

Brined cheese is the main type of cheese produced and eaten in the Middle East and Mediterranean areas.

***Halloumi or Haloumi-or Hallomi

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Semi-soft – Mild Cow’s milk cheese

Medium

Pair these cheeses with Light Red Wine, Rosè, Lagers, and Pilsner Beers.

***Colby

***Edam

***Havarti or Cream Havarti 

***Mimolette

***Monterey Jack

***Provolone

***Young Canadian Cheddar

***Young Cheddar

***Young Gouda or Goudam

***Young Marbled Cheddar or Marbled Cheeses

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Semi-soft – Mild Sheep’s milk cheese

Medium

Pair these cheeses with Light Red Wine, Rosè, Lagers, and Pilsner Beers.

***Manchego (fresco and semicurado styles)

***Ossau-Iraty

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Semi-soft – Swiss or Swiss style

Medium

Pair these cheeses with Light Red Wine, Rosè, Lagers, and Pilsner Beers.

***Baby Swiss

***Emmental or Emmentaler or Emmenthal or “Swiss cheese”

***Gruyère or Gruyere

***Jarlsberg

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Washed Rind (soft or semi-soft/Semi-hard Cheese/Medium-aged Cheeses)

Medium

Pair these cheeses with Light Red Wine, Rosè, Lagers, and Pilsner Beers.

Washed-rind cheeses are soft in character and ripen inwards like those with white molds; however, they are treated differently.

The interior of these cheeses is most often semi-soft and, sometimes, very rich and creamy.

The process requires regular washings, particularly in the early stages of production, making it quite labour-intensive compared to other methods of cheese production.

Washed-rind cheeses are periodically cured (ripening/aging process) in a solution of saltwater (brine) or mold-bearing agents that may include beer, wine, brandy or a mixture of ingredients and spices, making their surfaces amenable to a class of bacteria (Brevibacterium linens, the reddish-orange smear bacteria) that impart pungent odours and distinctive flavours and produce a firm, flavourful rind around the cheese. Resulting in cheeses developing higher pH levels and lower acidity, high moisture content (above 42%), and a characteristic red- or orange-coloured rind, frequently sticky to the touch and possessing a pungent aroma.

The flavour profile of many washed rind cheeses is often considerably milder than the smell would suggest. They’re funkier than bloomy cheeses, with gamy, often pleasantly pungent notes.

Washed rind cheeses may be made from both pasteurized and raw milk, depending on the style of the cheese and the cheese-maker producing them.

***Chaumes

***Danish Fontina

***Epoisses or Époisses or Époisses de Bourgogne

***Fontina or Fontine

***Fontina d’aosta or Fontina DOP or Fontina PDO

***Langres

***Livarot or The Colonel

***Morbier

***Munster or Munster fermente (fermenté) or Munster gerome (géromé) or Menschterkas

***Muenster or American Muenster

***Port Salut or Port du Salut

***Reblochon or Reblochon Fermier or Reblochon de Savoie

***Taleggio or Taleggio dop di Peghera

***Tomme/Tomme d’Alsace

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Hard (full bodied) aged cheeses

Hard cheeses are quite firmly packed into large forms and aged for months or years.

The product of aging, these are quite firm and break into crumbles or shards. They tend to have nutty and complex savoury notes. Some are fairly pungent, sharp and salty.

Hard cheese has a moisture content of less than 50% due to the cheese being aged for a long period of time which causes the cheese to lose some of its moisture content and have a stronger flavour.

Cheese in this category is considered to be an “all-purpose” cheese. Cheese is pressed to remove as much whey as possible after the curdling process which creates a firm cheese.

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Aged – Cow’s milk cheese

Bold

Pair the cheeses in this quadrant with Red Wine, Ales, and Lambic Beers.

***Aged Cheddar

***Aged Gouda

***Beaufort

***Cantal or Cantalet or Fourme de Cantal

***Cave-Aged Gruyère

***Cheshire

***Comté or Gruyère de Comté

***Extra-Aged Fontina

***Gloucester/Double Gloucester

***Montgomery’s Mature Cheddar

***Prima Donna/Prima Donna Maturo/Prima Donna Forte/Prima Donna Fino/Prima Donna Leggero

***Sbrinz

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Hard – sheep’s milk cheese

Bold

Pair the cheeses in this quadrant with Red Wine, Ales, and Lambic Beers.

***Pecorino

***Roncal

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Hard – Grana

Bold

Pair the cheeses in this quadrant with Red Wine, Ales, and Lambic Beers.

***Asiago (Asiago d’allevo)

***Grana Padano

***Parmesan/Parmigiano Reggiano

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Blue Mold/Mild wash rind (“Stinky”) Cheeses

Salty cheeses that are pungent.

Crumbly stinky Blue cheese are all of cow’s milk, sheep’s milk or goat’s milk cheeses that is created by inoculating a cheese with Penicillium roqueforti or Penicillium glaucum, which acts as the primary ripening culture. This is done while the cheese is still in the form of loosely pressed curds, and may be further enhanced by piercing a ripening block of cheese with skewers in an atmosphere in which the mold is prevalent. The mold grows within the cheese as it ages and the final product is spotted or veined throughout with blue, blue-gray or blue-green mold and carries a distinct smell. Typically, most blue mold cheeses are defined by internal veined molding which ranges from pale green to dark blue, and may be accompanied by white and crusty brown molds.

Their texture can be soft and creamy, or semi-soft and crumbly. Some are sweeter and milder, but all pack a good deal of sharpness and tang.

Blue cheese is popular to include on a cheese platter but I find people either love it or hate it (I love it) as most intense salty cheeses that are pungent make up this group. Although, if you think you don’t like blue cheese, you can probably point the finger at Penicillium roqueforti, which is the mold used in those really spicy, sour, piquant cheeses like Roquefort. The other blue mold type, Penicillium glaucum, is way milder, and tastes like toasted hazelnuts and chocolate. Yes, this is the Nutella of cheeses. Seriously, you can even tell the difference between the two molds visually: Penicillium roqueforti is dark, with an almost greenish black colour, whereas Penicillium glaucum is a lighter, denim blue the texture of suede.

Note: If you’re penicillin allergic or have any other reason to feel concerned, please proceed with caution if you eat blue cheese: Ask your allergist to test you for reaction to penicllium mold.

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Blue cheeses

Strong

These cheeses should be paired with Dessert Wines, Ports, and Stout Beers.

***Bleu d’Auvergne

***Cabrales or Cabraliego or Queso de Cabrales or Quesu Cabrales

***Cambozola or Blue Brie or Cambozola Black Label

***Danish Blue or Danablu

***Fourme d’Ambert or Ambert

***Gorgonzola

***Roquefort

***Stilton or Blue Stilton

Image by Halifaxsxc

Does Blue Cheese Spoil?

Blue cheeses are typically medium-hard, creamy cheeses injected with mold to create a pungent taste and smell. The distinctive mold colouring and the smell may mask spoilage that can occur in blue cheeses within two to three weeks of purchase. Fresh varieties are creamy white with veins of blue or blue-green mold. Check the “best used by” date on packages of blue cheese before you purchase them. This date reflects a general guideline for safe consumption of the cheese, assuming proper storage conditions are met.

Blue cheeses should be kept refrigerated and tightly wrapped once purchased, preferably in the original packaging. Most varieties will stay fresh for one to two weeks after purchase as long as they are refrigerated, so don’t buy more than you will reasonably use in that time frame. Remove the cheese from the refrigerator for 30 to 60 minutes before serving to allow it to come to room temperature, but do not let it sit out for more than four hours overall.

Beyond package dates, detecting spoilage in blue cheeses is a challenge, since standard signs like strong odour or mold are already present in still-safe blue cheese. Discard blue cheese with a yellow or orange tint, since this often is a sign of spoilage. One exception to this rule is Shropshire, a British blue cheese that is dyed a yellowish shade. Widespread heavy mold on the surface is another sign indicating blue cheese may have spoiled, as is an ammonia-like smell.

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NOT good for wine & cheese

Light or Lite

Light cheese is made by reducing the amount of butterfat which makes the cheese rubbery in texture and much less flavourful than full-fat versions of cheese. Light cheese has a high moisture content which makes it have a shorter shelf life. Examples: Cheese with 7% milk fat, Light Havarti, Light Jarlsberg, Cheddar with 19% milk fat.

Processed

This cheese is created by melting together a blend of grated cheese, milk, milk solids or water, food colouring and seasonings. Examples: Processed Cheese Slices, Cheese Spreads, “Smokies”.

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Note: I get really excited about cheese and wine, so it’s difficult for me to be brief when there is so much wonderful information to share!

Also check:

***In Development, please keep checking.


Reference: Content and images based on information from: https://www.wikipedia.org/ https://cheese.com https://www.cookipedia.co.uk
https://culturecheesemag.com https://www.gourmetsleuth.com https://winefolly.com/ https://www.tasteatlas.com https://www.wine.com/ https://winemonger.com https://www.terroir-france.com/


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