What are the main categories of cheese?

Cheese is a popular and versatile food enjoyed for thousands of years. Cheese comes in many varieties, made from the curdled milk of cows, goats, sheep, or other animals. While there are countless distinct types of cheese, they can be broadly categorized based on their texture, flavour, and processing methods. Common cheese categories include fresh, soft, semi-soft, hard, blue, and flavoured cheese. Each category has its unique characteristics, ranging from the creamy, mild flavour of fresh cheese to the pungent, savoury taste of blue cheese. Understanding the different cheese categories can help you choose the perfect type for your next meal or recipe. But the levels of softness or hardness can be flexible, and some cheeses can fit into multiple categories. Some cheese can be sold in different textures, have different rinds, and come from different places. So, it’s better to learn about each cheese and how to best pair them with wine.

Remember—it’s all cheese, so the “mistakes” are obviously still delicious.

Wine and cheese pairing possibilities are endless.

To pick the right wine, you need to know more about cheese. This will help you find the perfect match.

Learn about the main categories of the cheese.
They are described, organized and classified by texture, type of milk, and where it comes from.

Young Fresh and Soft, Creamy, Unripened Cheeses

Mild cheese categories Fast2eat

Mild

Soft, spreadable cheeses have a mild, lactic taste and tangy finish. Fresh cheese is not aged or fermented, and has a high moisture content of 40-80%, which makes it go bad quicker. It’s made by curdling and draining milk with little other processing. In the US, cheeses aged less than 60 days must use pasteurized milk/cream by law. These can be made with milk from cows, goats, or sheep.

Some examples of Young Fresh and Soft, Creamy, Unripened Cheeses are:

Soft Cheese – Fresh – Cow’s milk cheese

Soft Cheese – Fresh – Goat’s milk cheese

Stretched Curd and Brined

Brined cheese is a type of cheese that is soaked in salty water. This makes it last longer and prevents bacteria from growing, even in hot places. The cheese can be soft or hard, and different types of milk can be used to make it. Brined cheese has no rind, is usually white in colour, and has a clean, salty, and sour taste when fresh. As it ages, the flavour can become stronger. Brined cheese is very common in the Middle East and Mediterranean regions. Examples of brined cheeses include:

Soft and Brined

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

These cheeses are soft, smooth, and creamy, named after a white mould that grows on the outside. They are the richest and creamiest type of cheese, with a smooth, spreadable texture. The rind is edible and has a stronger flavour than the inside. The cheese begins firm and chalky but is aged by exposing them to mould, which contributes to the smooth texture and intense flavour. They are highly perishable and can stay in their best condition for only 3-5 days. The cheese’s flavour depends on the milk and cheese itself but often has notes of mushrooms, truffle, or earthy flavours. The cheeses in this category include:

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

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%.

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

Goat’s milk cheeses are often treated similarly, sometimes with white moulds and sometimes with blue.
  • Crottin de Chavignol
  • Very young Selles sur Cher

Semi-soft and Brined

Brined or pickled cheese is made by soaking cheese in saltwater. This stops bacteria from growing, even in hot places. Brined cheese can be soft or hard and have different flavours depending on the kind of milk used. It has no outside layer and tastes salty and acidic when fresh. As it gets older, it develops a stronger taste. Brined cheese is the main type of cheese in the Middle East and Mediterranean. One well-known kind of brined cheese is called Halloumi, which can also be spelled Haloumi or Hallomi.

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

Medium cheese categories Fast2eat

Medium

Semi-soft cheese is firmer and denser than soft cheese but softer than hard cheese. They come in many different types and have a creamy and mild flavour. They are neither spreadable nor hard enough to crumble. They are perfect for melting and slicing. They also contain a lot of moisture and have a mild taste. Some semi-soft cheeses become harder as they age.

Some examples of Semi-soft/Semi-aged and medium-hard aged/Semi-hard Cheeses are:

Semi-soft – Mild Cow’s milk cheese

  • 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

Semi-soft – Mild Sheep’s milk cheese

  • Manchego (fresh and semi-cured styles)
  • Ossau-Iraty

Semi-soft – Swiss or Swiss style

  • Baby Swiss
  • Emmental or Emmentaler or Emmenthal or “Swiss cheese”
  • Gruyère or Gruyere
  • Jarlsberg

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

Washed-rind cheeses are soft and ripen inwards like those with white moulds; however, they are treated differently. These cheeses’ interior is often semi-soft and, sometimes, very rich and creamy. They need regular washing in the early stages of production, which makes it a lot of work. The cheese is soaked in salt water or other liquids to help bacteria (called Brevibacterium linens) grow on the surface. This bacteria causes a red or orange colour and a strong smell. The cheese has a high moisture content and a sticky surface. They’re stronger-tasting than bloomy cheeses and often have a gamy flavour. You can make these cheeses with pasteurized or raw milk. Some washed-rind cheese types include:

  • 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

Hard (full-Bodied) aged cheeses

Bold cheese categories Fast2eat

Bold

Hard cheeses are made by pressing cheese curds tightly and aging them for several months or years. They have complex, nutty flavours and can be sharp and salty. These cheeses are firm and can be crumbled or broken into pieces. They have less than 50% moisture due to aging, which gives them a stronger taste. These cheeses are all-purpose and versatile.

Some examples of Hard (full-Bodied) aged cheeses are:

Aged – Cow’s milk cheese

  • 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

Hard – sheep’s milk cheese

  • Pecorino
  • Roncal

Hard – Grana

  • Asiago (Asiago d’allevo)
  • Grana Padano
  • Parmesan/Parmigiano Reggiano

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

Strong cheese categories Fast2eat

Strong

Blue cheese is made by adding special moulds to cow’s, sheep’s, or goat’s milk cheese. The mould grows inside the cheese while it ages, giving it the blue, blue-grey or blue-green colour you see in the final product. This cheese has a strong smell and taste. Some varieties are soft and creamy, while others are crumbly. Blue cheese is often part of cheese platters, but some people don’t like it. This might be because of a mould called Penicillium roqueforti, used in some types of blue cheese like Roquefort. There is another type of blue mould called Penicillium glaucum, which is milder and has a nutty flavour. If you are allergic to penicillin, be careful when you eat blue cheese and check with your allergist first.

cheese categories Fast2eat

Pungent, salty cheese.

Some examples of Blue Mold/Mild wash rind (“Stinky”) Cheeses are:

  • 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

Does Blue Cheese Spoil?

Blue cheese is a type of cheese that is usually medium-hard and creamy. It’s made by injecting mould into the cheese to give it a strong taste and smell. When you buy blue cheese, it’s important to look at the “best used by” date to ensure it’s still good. Blue cheese should be kept in the fridge and wrapped up tightly. It usually stays fresh for about one to two weeks in the refrigerator. Before serving the cheese, take it from the fridge for about half an hour to let it come to room temperature. If there is heavy mould on the surface of the cheese or it smells like ammonia, it might be spoiled and should be thrown away. If the cheese has a yellow or orange tint, it might also be spoiled, except for one type of cheese called Shropshire.

Which cheeses are NOT good for wine & cheese?

Light or Lite

Light cheese has a lot of water, and it is made by taking out some of the fat in regular cheese. This can make it less tasty and more rubbery than the regular cheese. Some types of light cheese are cheese with only 7% fat, Light Havarti, Light Jarlsberg, and Cheddar with 19% fat.

Processed

This cheese is made by mixing grated cheese, milk, milk solids or water, food colouring and seasonings. Some examples of this cheese are processed cheese slices, cheese spreads and “smokies.”

How to plan an unforgettable wine & cheese party

Hosting a wine and cheese party may be fancy or intimidating, but if you follow the Fast2eat guide, you’ll be a DIY pro in no time.

These tips are from my own experience;
I’m neither a party organizer, a sommelier, nor a turophile (a cheese connoisseur). 
I just love cheese, wine and spending time with family and friends.

I hope my easy tips will give you the confidence to host a wine and cheese party with a handful of close friends.

If you use my tips for your next Wine & Cheese party, please comment below and remember to take a picture, tag @Fast2eat.com and use #Fast2eat so that we can both marvel at how easy it was!

Comment below with your experience, snap a pic, use #fast2eat and tag us on
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