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They may look similar, but these cheeses are very different. This article will give you the vocabulary to describe them. Photo courtesy EatWisconsinCheese.com.

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February 2010

Product Reviews / Main Nibbles / Cheese-Butter-Yogurt

Tasting Cheese 101

If You Love Cheese, Here’s How To Taste It

 

 

CAPSULE SUMMARY: If you want to learn more about fine cheese, you need to hone your powers of sensorial observation. How does it look, smell, and taste. How’s the texture? This cheese-tasting guide will help. Some information has been provided by Acadamia Barilla, a treasure trove of information and recipes. To practice your skills, throw a cheese-tasting party. This is Page 1 of a five-page article. Click on the black links below to visit other pages.

 

Overview: Tasting Cheese

Whatever your food passion—cheese, chocolate, coffee, wine, for example—there’s an expert way to taste it. Sensorial observation is key to evaluating the quality of the cheese or other food product.

While you might be tempting to dig in for the pure eating joy, take a moment to studiously assess your food. You’ll learn more about it and will end up with a greater appreciation and connoisseurship. The, you can dig in!

Learn from this article, and then have a cheese-tasting party! More party ideas include:


But first, let’s learn to taste cheese!

STEP 1: Observe


While it might seem to some that there’s not much to be gained by scrutinizing the appearance of the cheese, when you become good at it, you’ll know if you’re looking at a fine or average example of the variety, if it’s young, over-the-hill or at perfect eating age (“a point,” pronounced ah-pwan), if it’s in great shape or may have suffered mishandling or other defects.

  1. Look up the standards for the particular cheese.
  2. If you can’t do this in advance, write down a description of the cheese in front of you, and compare it to the “perfect example” later.
  3. What words do you use to describe the appearance of cheese? You’ll find them on the next page.

Next comes the flavor and aroma test.

 
Start by describing these three very different cheeses from Cowgirl Creamery. The first is one of our favorite cheeses in the world, the Munster-like Red Hawk, a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week.

STEP 2: Smell

Why do people bother to smell a piece of cheese? As you’ll see in the second step below, the aroma is an indicator of the quality of the cheese.

So why not skip this step and just taste the cheese? Because if you love cheese, you love all of its organoleptic* qualities. Inhaling a cheese—or a wine—is as pleasurable as tasting it.

  1. Break or slice off a small piece of cheese and hold it up to your nose.
  2. Inhale and evaluate the smell of the cheese in terms of quality, intensity and duration of the scent.

*Pertaining to the sensory properties of a food.

 
We’d never tire of smelling the wonderful blue cheeses from Rogue Creamery.

STEP 3: Taste

You’ve completed Steps 1 and 2; now move on to most people’s favorite step, tasting!

  1. Take a good bite of the cheese.
  2. Chew it in well to “heat it up”; roll it from side to side and back and forth between your tongue and the roof of your mouth.
  3. Flavor: Look for the four fundamental flavors (sweet, salty, acidic and bitter) and all of the other descriptors in the chart on page 2.
  4. Aroma: Swallow the cheese; close your mouth and inhale through your nose to again define the aromas in terms of quality, intensity and duration.
  5. Structure: Evaluate how the cheese holds up in your mouth. Is in hard, elastic sticky, crumbly?
 
Take a bite and focus on the flavors. Do you find nutty? Sharp? Cow-barnyardy? Bell pepper? Photo courtesy Tillamook Creamery. Is it firm or mealy? See the descriptors chart on the next page.

 

Continue To Page 2: Cheese Tasting Vocabulary

Go To The Article Index At The Top Of The Page

 

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