Cheese Tasting Techniques

Robiola Bosina

The practice of savoring food, identifying nuance, texture and flavor, is an exercise in reclaiming your palate from the barrage of “fake” and processed tastes that are all around. Taking the time to slow down and truly taste food in a relaxed setting with friends and family is one of life’s little luxuries.

These simple tasting techniques engage all your senses and will lead you to your cheese bliss!

Look at the cheese — the visual appearance holds many clues. Note the color; bright white cheeses are most often made from goat’s milk, which lacks carotene, the compound that gives a yellowish hue to cow and sheep milk cheeses.  Cheeses that are particularly yellow indicate pasture grazing, which increases carotene levels.  All bets are off if it’s artificially color enhanced, of course.

Smell the cheese — but remember, often cheeses don’t taste like they smell. Slice  a small piece of room temperature cheese and smell the just-cut surface, where the aroma is most pronounced. Let the aroma suggest different things: fruit, nuts, cream, butter — even a wool sweater, leather, cellar, barnyard or countless other aromas can be discerned in different cheeses.

Like a fine wine, good cheese will grow and change over the course of a few moments in the mouth.
Taste the cheese — take an average size bite and chew, spreading the paste throughout your mouth. This technique will activate all of your tastebuds. Note the various flavors and the flavor progression. Like a fine wine, good cheese will grow and change over the course of a few moments in the mouth, unlike commodity style cheeses which are often one dimensional.  Observe how the initial impression, the mid-notes and the finish can all be very different.

Those new to bold, assertive cheeses like blue or washed rind may want to begin with several small bites to acclimate the palate. Often the first bite is strong , even astringent, the second bite reveals more salty and savory notes and the third bite shows the buttery complexity and fullness of the cheese.

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