Use the following as a selection guide to help you choose the best cheese to impress guests at your next party. Need some help choosing a wine to team with your cheese? Go to our story on the best drops
to find out what our wine experts recommend.
White mould cheese
Brie and camembert are both soft cheeses covered in a white mould. Traditionally, they were made very differently, so their flavours were quite distinct. Today, this difference is less pronounced – sometimes even indistinguishable – and usually determined by the individual cheese maker. Double and triple cream bries and camemberts have a higher fat content than single cream ones and a richer, creamier texture.
If you’re buying a white mould cheese from a supermarket, depending on its packaging you may not be able to determine how it looks or smells. In a deli or specialty cheese shop, where you have the opportunity to view and taste the product, you can use the following guidelines to help you make your selection:
- A white mould cheese should have a velvety white rind and a creamy, glossy, golden interior with no dry edges or overpowering smell of ammonia.
- The surface mould should not show any signs of breaking down.
- The centre of the cheese should ooze or bulge when cut.
- It should have earthy, mushroomy aromas and a full, creamy flavour.
- Avoid a camembert or brie that has a chalky centre, as this indicates an unripe cheese.
In the case of a prepackaged supermarket cheese:
- Choose a cheese as close as possible to its best-before date to ensure a fuller flavour.
- If the cheese is completely obscured by its packaging, give it a gentle squeeze. Buy a product with some elasticity and avoid anything that is rock-hard.
Serve white mould cheeses at room temperature with a dry, sparkling white, or fortified wine, such as muscat, tokay or port.
Cheddar takes its name from the village of Cheddar in Somerset, England, which devised the process of “cheddaring”, whereby blocks of curds are stacked like bricks, releasing moisture. As cheddar ages, it changes from having a smooth texture to being dry and crumbly with a sharp flavour. The descriptions on the packaging indicate how old the cheese is and, therefore, how developed the flavour will be. Aged or mature cheddar crumbles and has a long, sharp flavour; semi-matured or tasty is slightly moister with a developed flavour. Mild cheddar slices well for use in sandwiches without overpowering the other fillings. Club cheddar is made from selected cheddar cheeses shredded and compacted together to make a block. Quality depends on the types of cheeses used and how well they are combined. A good example of this type of cheese is the Mersey Valley Original Club Cheddar, which, according to our experts, uses quality cheese.
Selecting a quality cheddar isn’t as complicated as a white mould cheese. It can come down to personal preference regarding flavour profile.
- Look for descriptors such as “mild”, “tasty”, “extra tasty” or “vintage” to gauge strength of flavour.
- Look for a cheddar that is free from dryness or cracks in its surface.
- The cheddar should have a lingering taste.
Serve at room temperature with a cabernet sauvignon or shiraz, or try a dry chardonnay.
Blue vein is one of the smelliest cheeses and well-known for its distinct taste. It ripens from the inside out, unlike white mould cheese, which ripens from the outside in. The blue veins are created by inoculating the cheese with a mould, usually Penicillium roqueforti. During the maturation process, the cheese is pierced with metal spikes to allow oxygen in, promoting growth of the blue veins. Blue cheeses come in different styles, from soft and mildly creamy to firm, crumbly and strong flavoured.
As with white mould cheese, packaging can obscure the look and smell of a blue cheese. To ensure it’s ripe for serving, make sure it:
- has an even distribution of veining from centre to rind
- is not grey or discoloured
- is neither dry, nor wet and breaking down
Serve blue cheese at room temperature with an aromatic white wine such as sauvignon blanc or riesling. If you’re a beer drinker, blue cheese also goes down well with lager.
Did you know?
Unlike the European Union, the UK and most of the US, Australia still bans the home-grown production of unpasteurised or raw milk cheese. At the same time, some types of cheeses made from raw milk are allowed to be imported, leaving Australian cheese makers reeling. There is now an uprising among cheese makers, slow food groups, and foodies for Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) to lift the ban and allow the traditional artisan practice of using raw milk for cheese making. They argue that much of the flavours from milk are destroyed in the heating process. They also highlight that risks associated with cheese made with unpasteurised milk have not resulted in higher rates of food-borne illness in Europe.
FSANZ is currently reviewing the standards for the production and sale of raw milk products in Australia.