Cheese tasting tips
Charlie Turnbull, founding director of Academy of Cheese, gives his professional advice on how to choose the best cheese for your board.
- Outer: The wrapping or covering that encases the cheese.
- Rind: The hard outer part of the cheese.
- Paste: The inside portion of the cheese, below the rind.
- Inspect the rind: Is there an inorganic outer, such as wax or cloth, or an organic outer, for instance charcoal, leaves or grape must?
- Inspect the interior: The paste will have a certain consistency and texture – it could be soft, like brie de meaux, or very hard, like aged gouda. Parmesan might be crystalline, while camembert could be dual textured or even. Note the colour and presence of blueing.
- Smell the cheese: To identify its level of intensity. You might also pick up some specific aromas – spice, mushroom, smoke etc.
Chew the cheese slowly and breathe through your nose. There are two main stages to tasting. Initially, we’re aiming to pick up the five simple flavours on the tongue – bittersweet, acid, salty and savoury. These give way to more complex flavours, which are registered through the nose and tongue. Complex flavours vary enormously, from meaty and nutty to fruity, via the allotment, farmyard or hedgerow! There are levels of subtlety that you’ll be able to identify as you become more practised.
The Academy of Cheese have created five flavour categories:
- Fruity and floral
- Vegetable and herbaceous
- Mineral and chemical
- Animal, fungal and fermented
As you taste more, it will become easier to build up your vocabulary to benchmark cheeses. However, everyone’s palate is different, so taste with others to gauge the flavours that you are, or are not, sensitive to.
Wondering what crackers to pair with your cheddar? Or what will balance out a strong blue? Take a look at what to serve on a cheeseboard for more fabulous fromage tips.
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