Close to four in 10 CHOICE members are self-professed cheese lovers, while a further four out of 10 like cheese and eat it on a regular basis. Whether you’re a cheese fan or not, with the holiday season looming you’ll no doubt be increasing your intake by nibbling your way through traditional party cheese platters. We invite four experts to guide you through the festive season by tasting your platter favourites – white mould (camembert/brie), cheddar and blue – and giving you the inside story on selecting the best.
In our test, the best supermarket cheeses outperformed the deli-specialty cheeses – you just have to know what to look for.
Supermarkets vs. delis
Our online poll of CHOICE members found 67% of those surveyed buy gourmet cheeses from the supermarket. As our experts confirmed, supermarket cheese can range from very good to exceptionally bad. The following should always be taken into consideration when making your cheese selection:
Supermarkets demand products with a long shelf life to prevent wastage of stock. As one of our experts, Russell Smith, explains: “Bries, camemberts and washed-rind cheeses are almost always sold well before they are ripe, which means they have very little, if any, flavour.” Buying a prepackaged cheese as close to best-before date increases the likelihood of getting a ripe product.
Packaging can hide the cheese, making it hard to judge ripeness and quality, so buying from a supermarket can be a gamble.
All cheese deteriorates fairly quickly after it has been cut from the wheel. “The message for consumers is to make sure your cheese has not been sitting around too long after cutting,” says Smith. Make sure you choose a deli or specialty cheese shop with a good turnover.
Buying from a deli rather than a supermarket improves your chances of buying cheese cut directly from the wheel, or a piece that has been cut the same day. It may also allow you to try the cheese before buying.
How we test
Four experts taste 24 cheeses across three categories – white mould, cheddar and blue. As most of our members buy their cheese from supermarkets each category includes seven cheeses from supermarkets nationally, as well as a more expensive product available from specialty cheese shops and delis nationally. Cheeses are presented to the experts on plates, with no brand identification. They rate them on a 20-point system similar to that in cheese judging shows – a maximum of 10 for flavour and aroma, six for texture and four for presentation.
Meet the experts
Russell Smith is a specialty cheese consultant and educator, a national cheese judge and contributing editor to the Regional Food Australia website. He is also a passionate cheese lover.
is a cheese enthusiast with a passion for cheese judging. Susan has stewarded at the RAS NSW Cheese Show and contributed the cheese chapter for the 2011 Foodies’ Guide to Sydney.
is the Senior Audit and Compliance Officer with NSW Food Authority. He is a graduate in dairy technology and has been a dairy product judge for the Sydney Show and Dairy Industry Association of Australia (DIAA ) for 25 years.
is a qualified butter maker and cheese maker. He has worked for the Queensland Research Laboratories for 37 years and has judged dairy produce for the Royal Queensland Show (Ekka), DIAA and regional shows for 25 years.