Buying Cheese... want to know some of the terms used?

The Cheese and Wine Shop Cheese Glossary

The world of cheese is complex and varied; here is our brief guide to make it a little easier. Please note, if you are looking for a specific Cheese, please see The Cheese and Wine Shop Cheese guide here.



A description used for cheese with sour flavours.



The craft of maturing and aging cheeses to perfection.



The person behind the maturation and aging of cheeses.



The term usually used for bloomy or washed rind cheeses, giving off a strong smell or taste of ammonia, which is unpleasant!



A vegetable extract deriving from achiote seeds that is used to color a cheese red, yellow, or orange. (See Shropshire Blue)



A skilled manual craftsperson.


Artisanal Cheese

Cheese that has been hand-crafted in small batches according to time-honored techniques, recipes, and traditions.



Microscopic, single cell organisms found everywhere. Bacteria are integral to the production of every type of cheese. They promote complex flavor development, rind growth, and acidification. The large majority of bacteria in cheese are beneficial and non-pathogenic.


Bacterial Surface

Used to describe the rind of cheeses such as Munster d'Alsace and Epoisses, indicating a heavy growth of bacteria on the surface and unique flavor.



The French word for cheeses that are blue-veined.


Bloomy Rind

Type  of cheese the rind of which has be coated with Penicillium candidum, allowing it to ripen from outside in. Camembert and Brie are examples of bloomy rind cheeses.



Blue mould found in blue cheeses.



The general name for the texture of cheese. Cheese body can be further described alternately as firm, weak, pastry, flaky, close, short.



A mixture comprised of water, salt, and often some type of spirit. Brines are used to "wash" cheeses, inhibiting mould growth and promoting flavor development.



Term used to a describe a cheese that is off-colour or possesses dents or other abnormalities.


Butterfat Content

The amount of fat in cheese.



The liquid remaining after cream is curdled and churned to make butter - similar to whey.


Calf Rennet

A substance derived from rennin, an enzyme found in the fourth stomach of a milk-fed calf. It is used to coagulate (curdle) milk.



The technical name for milk protein. Casein is broken in half by rennet in the production of cheese, forming curds and whey.



Originally a real cave or cellar. Today, a cave can be a specially calibrated refrigerated cooler used to maintain the precise humidity and temperature levels ideal for aging cheese.



Denotes the sprinkling of cheeses with dark vegetable ash commonly seen on young goats' milk cheeses. (See Morbier)


Cheese Cloth

A cloth, having either a course or fine texture, used to drain cheese curds or line cheese moulds.


Chevre or Goats Cheese

A cheese made from goat's milk


Cooked Curds

A facet of cheese making, when cut curd is heated to expel more whey.



The fatty element of milk.



The solid portion of coagulated or curdled milk.



The stage in cheese making when the cheese is left to ripen and lose some of its moisture. Also known as affinage or aging.



When curds and whey are separated, and the whey is allowed to drain off.


Dry Matter

The part of cheese consisting of solid (versus liquid) matter.



Enhances the coagulation of milk, along with rennet.




The technical name for holes formed in certain cheeses after fermentation, e.g. in Swiss cheeses.


Describes cheese made solely from milk produced on the same farm.


Fat Content

The amount of fat in dry matter in cheese.


Fresh Cheese

Cheese that has not been ripened or aged.


Hard Cheese

Cheese that has been aged, salted, pressed for some time causing it to lose moisture.


Horizontal Tasting(See Also Vertical Tasting)

The terms horizontal tasting and vertical tasting come from the wine world. A horizontal tasting with cheese involves tasting similar cheeses side by side, such as tasting various cheddars, or more specifically, several Loire valley chevres, or several blues, etc. These are some of the particularly exciting and educational ways to compare various cheeses side by side. 


Lactic Acid

The acid produced in milk or curd during cheesemaking, often as a result of the addition of a bacterial starter culture.



Natural sugar found in milk.


Lactose Intolerance

A physical intolerance and inability to process milk sugars. It should be noted that lactose is consumed by bacteria in the production of cheese and converted to lactic acid. Most cheeses over 60 days old do not contain any lactose, or only contain trace amounts. Milk allergy is often confused with lactose intolerance.



Part of the process of cheesemaking, when the cheese is stored at a certain temperature and humidity for a period of time in order to allow its flavor and texture to develop.



When added artificially to a cheese, mold describes a fungus or fungiform bacteria necessary for the development of the cheese. It manifests either internally or on the surface. Cheese can also develop mold spontaneously or naturally, usually on the rind of a cheese. This mold is usually beneficial or innocuous, but can be harmful as well. Typically, darker-colored molds are beneficial or harmless (blue, gray, brown, dark orange). Avoid consumption of bright yellow, red, or jet black molds.



A step in the cheesemaking process in which curds are poured into wood, metal, cloth, or plastic molds, containing holes to allow for drainage. These molds help determine the final shape of the cheese.



The type of wax used to coat cheeses, providing protection during transport and to discourage surface mold growth.



The interior of a cheese.



The process of heating milk to destroy pathogenic (and beneficial) bacteria, rendering the milk "clean". The typical method employed is HTST or High Temperature, Short Time. Milk is held at a temperature of 161.5 degrees Fahrenheit (or 72 degrees Celsius) for at least 15 seconds.


Penicillium Candidum

A mold often added to soft-ripened cheeses that promotes the growth of a white, bloomy rind.


Pressed Cheeses

Cheeses that have been pressed to further expel whey. Gouda and Parmigiano-Reggianoare popular examples of pressed cheeses.



The process of piercing a cheese with long needles in order to introduce the air necessary for certain types of fermentation, usually blue mold growth.

Rennet A plant or animal derived substance that contains the enzyme rennin. Rennet is crucial to the coagulation of milk in the cheese making process. Traditionally, rennet was derived from the lining of the fourth stomach of an unweaned ruminant animal (e.g. a calf, kid, or lamb). Today, microbial, plant-derived, and GMO varieties represent the majority of the market.

Renetting The step in the cheesemaking process in which rennet is added to  coagulate (curdle) the milk.



The outside of a cheese. The rind acts as a barrier between the cheese and the outside environment, while also imparting a flavor of its own.



The process of maturing a cheese. Artisanal Premium Cheese specializes in ripening cheeses to their full flavor potential.



When salt is added during the cheese making process to draw out liquid, enhance flavors, and stave off pathogenic bacteria growth. Different types of cheese require salting at different stages of the production process.


Skim Milk

Milk from which part or all of the fat (cream layer) has been removed.


Soft Cheese

Unpressed, high moisture cheeses that are aged for relatively short periods. Camembert and Brie are popular examples of soft cheese.



The bacteria added to milk at the very beginning of the cheesemaking process. The starter serves to acidify the milk, speeding along coagulation, and also adds to the complexity of flavor.

Triple Crème 

Cheese that contains more than 75% fat in dry matter (e.g. Pierre Robert, Delice de Bourgogne and Brillat Savarin)


Uncooked Cheese

Cheese produced where the milk is only heated to 36 degrees Celsius and coagulated at a slightly lower temperature. Milk used to produce 'cooked cheeses' is heated to a much higher temperature. Examples of uncooked cheeses are Cantalet and Fromage de Savoie.


Unpasteurised Cheese

Cheese made from milk that has not been pasteurized. Often called raw milk, cheese made from milk that has not been pasteurized must be aged at least 60 days before it can be sold.


Vegetarian Rennet

Rennet derived completely from fungal, bacterial, or floral sources rather than from livestock. The cardoon thistle, for example, is often used as a source of vegetarian rennet.


Vertical Tasting(See Also Horizontal Tasting)

The terms vertical tasting and horizontal tasting come from the wine world. A vertical tasting with cheese involves tasting the same cheese at various ages, from as young as possible (just barely cheese) also described in The Cheese Plate as stage 1, to well-aged, if not overripe. This is one of many fun ways to compare various cheeses side by side. 


Washed-Rind Cheese

Used to describe a type of cheese that is washed periodically in a brine solution in order to promote rind growth and develop flavour. The rind may be washed in water, brine, cider, beer, spirits, wine, etc. Each type of wash imparts its own unique flavour. Examples of washed-rind cheeses are Epoisses and Munster




The liquid portion of the milk left when milk is curdled. High in protein and carbohydrates, it is often fed to hogs, or reheated to produce ricotta cheese.