Types of Cheese, and how to look after them

Cheese Types

Cheeses can be grouped into various types, styles or families. Confused by the vast range of choices? Here are some guidelines....

Most cheeses have a rind, which is an external protective layer that forms naturally. We generally classify cheese by its interior. Here at The Cheese and Wine Shop we think of Cheese as follows;

Soft | Bloomy | Semisoft | Washed | Firm | Hard | Blue

These types group cheeses that provide a consistent eating experience. These classes of Cheese will help you find a cheese you like according to the following descriptions:

Soft Cheeses

Are those with interiors that are neither pressed nor cooked.Their texture is creamy, velvety and almost melts in the mouth because their moisture level varies between 50% and 60%. Their butterfat level varies between 20% and 26%. This percentage is higher in double- and triple-cream cheeses, which are made with milk and cream.
Think: Young. Tart. Tangy. Lemony. Smooth. Moist. Creamy. No rind. Find: Fresh goat cheese Stawley Goats Curd, Chevre, Mozzarella
refers to the snowy, fluffy, "blooming" rind. This type of cheese includes Camembert and Brie and they have a delicate taste. They are produced by leaving curdled milk to drain in moulds for a few hours before salting. Then, the external surface is sprayed with a culture (penicillium candidum) that gives the cheese its characteristic white and fluffy rind called "bloom.” The cheese is then ripened for about one month during which time the texture and colour of the interior becomes more and more consistent.
Think: White. Buttery. Decadent. Pillowy. Fluffy. Rich. Mild to Mushroomy. Edible rind. Find: Brie, Camembert, Triple-Crèmes (Delice de Bourgogne, St. Andre)
Soft Cheese, Washed Rind(Smelly Cheeses)
This category includes cheeses like Epoisses. The manufacturing process is similar except that the curdled milk is removed before being moulded, which allows for better draining. The result is a denser but still soft interior. The cheese ripens for two to four months. Then it is washed and brushed on several occasions with brine to which alcohol is sometimes added. The term "mixed rind” indicates a cheese that was washed at the beginning of the ripening period, then left to continue ripening as the microbial flora does its work.
Semi-soft Cheese
has a 45%-50% moisture level, these cheeses contain a firmer and more compact texture than you can obtain by mechanically pressing curdled milk to extract additional whey (lactoserum). In some cases, to intensify draining, the interior is heated slightly. This category includes a wide range of cheeses that vary enormously according to the production process as well as the ripening method and duration.
Think: Pliable. Earthy. Wet straw. Hay. Leaves. Melting. Look for: Fontina, Morbier, Tomme de Savoie, Raclette
How to Serve Semi Soft Cheeses ... In addition to being an essential ingredient for fondues, semi-soft cheeses enhance the taste of pizzas, pasta dishes, quiches, soups, salads and sandwiches. The majority are also delicious for the raclette.
Think: Pungent. Stinky. Fruity. Meaty.Intense. Aromatic. Vibrant pink to orange edible rind. Look for: Epoisses, Livarot, Pont l'Eveque, Taleggio
Firm Cheeses
The interior is drained and pressed to withdraw the most whey (lactoserum) possible before being cooked or semi-cooked. The moisture level is between 35% and 45%.
These are cheeses which have been pressed to remove as much of the whey and moisture from the curds as possible to ensure a long keeping product. Cheeses may be matured from anything between 12 weeks in the case of mild Cheddar, up to 2 years or more in the case of vintage Cheddar, Parmesan or Manchego. Other popular examples of firm hard cheese include Red Leicester, Double Gloucester, Derby, Malvern, Worcester, Hereford. Continental varieties include Emmental and Gouda.
Think: Dense but supple. Grassy. Eggy. Fruited. Sharp. Thick, natural rind not typically eaten. Look for: Cheddar, Gruyère, Manchego, Ossau Iraty
Hard Cheeses
The interior is drained and pressed to withdraw the most whey (lactoserum) possible before being cooked or semi-cooked. The moisture level is between 35% and 45%. Some firm cheeses (like curd cheese or fresh Cheddar From Here) are not ripened, which explains their under-developed flavour.
Others are interior ripened for three to six months. In some of these cheeses, "eyes” form when gas is created before the interior hardens. These are cheeses which have been pressed to remove as much of the whey and moisture from the curds as possible to ensure a long keeping product. Cheeses may be matured from anything between 12 weeks in the case of mild Cheddar, up to 2 years or more in the case of vintage Cheddar, Parmesan or Manchego. Other examples of firm hard cheese include Red Leicester, Double Gloucester, Derby, Malvern, Worcester, Hereford. Continental varieties include Emmental and Gouda.
Think: The super-aged big guns. Dry. Crunchy. Caramelly. Butterscotchy. Grainy. Look for: Aged Gouda, Parmigiano-Reggiano

Blue Cheeses
there are blue cheese variants of many of the cheese listed above. What puts them into the blue cheese category is that penicillium roqueforti - a blue mould - is added to the cheese at various stages in the making process. Sometimes it is added to the milk at the start of the process in other cases it is sprayed onto the curds before being shaped. Normally the cheese will be pierced with stainless steel needles to allow air into the body of the cheese which then activates the blue mould and starts to break down the protein which in turn creates the blue mould. The process is a way of accelerating the normal development of the cheese and means that quite strong tasting cheese is produced within a few months. Blue Stilton is perhaps the best known blue cheese produced in the UK but there are now more than 70 different blue cheeses being produced within the UK. Other notable British examples are Shropshire Blue, Blue Cheshire, Blue Wensleydale, Dovedale, Buxton Blue, Blacksticks Blue and even Blue Leicester! Imported examples include Roquefort, Gorgonzola, Cambozola and Danish Blue.

Think: Mold! Veins. Craters. Big. Sharp-edged. Punchy. Complex. Look for: Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Stilton

How do I Serve Cheese?
Serve all cheeses at room temperature! Remove cheeses from the larder or fridge at least an hour before serving.
Key points;
Cheese Boards and Cheese tips ...
A cheese plate is arranged in clockwise fashion with the first cheese at midnight on the plate.It's a good idea to vary the milk types, too: goat, sheep and cow.

Don't be afraid to experiment. Start with what you like first and work around it.

Need help choosing cheese? Contact us! (01823 662899

Ideally, buy often and frequent. Some people find our Cheese Chestsideal. However, recognising that that’s not always possible, here are our guidelines for home storage:


When possible, reuse the Cheese and Wine Shops cheese paper your cheese arrived in. It protects but allows breath-ability. It extends shelf life by 5-7 days.
Wrap in our wax paper or parchment covered in plastic wrap (paper alone and the cheese will dry right out)
Plastic wrap is okay for harder cheeses, but re-wrap 2-3 times a week
Use aluminium foil for blues, andhigher moisture blue cheeses.
Try the your Salad drawer it's a bit warmer and moister than the rest of the fridge
Some basic things to consider when serving a cheese course;
As a general rule, if you`rehaving cheese as a first course, avoid sweet triple cremes (which are more for dessert), blues generally too strong, or very aged cheese (also too strong). Stick to bloomy rinds, medium washed rinds or semi-softs.
  • Three to five cheeses are enough for any course. Less is more in this case.
  • After dinner cheeses would typically start with a fresh cheese (e.g., chevre) or bloomy rind (e.g., camembert); then a semi-soft or medium cheese (e.g., Morbier or Cheddar); then a harder cheese (e.g., an aged Gouda); finally a blue (eg, Roquefort)
When do you serve the cheese course?
Our preference is that cheese should be served before the dessert as the flow of flavours through the meal is consistent, and the wine from the main course can usually be enjoyed with the cheeses. It is somewhat menu dependant, and of course, personal preferences should dictate. In defence of serving it English style, it is always nice to sit and relax at the end of a meal and pick at a cheese board intermittently, so, really the choice is yours!

Cheese Storage Chest (image 1)

Buy our Cheese chests here

What should you Serve with Cheese ... why our Cheese Partners of course!

Other complimentary products to serve with your cheese are ...

Nuts, Almonds help bring out the subtleties of cheese flavour and aroma. Toasted hazelnuts and walnuts interchangeably work with cheese, and pecans go well with sweet orunctuous cheeses.

Olives, naturally complement sheep and goat's milk cheese; experiment with dried fruits like raisins, figs, dates, and any number of berries.

Chutneys and Pickles are a tasty alternative that meld nicely with the texture and nuances of English farmhouse cheeses. Chutney with Cheddar is simply delicious. French chevre with its stark white moist, flaky or crumbly paste is a choice for chutney, also perfect with juicy plums.

Fruit pastes, such as membrillo made of quince, with slices of an array of semi-hard sheep's milk cheeses from Spain, French Pyrenees, Sardinia, and delicate flavored cow's milk cheeses like Caerphilly, are sure to bring delight.

Seasonal Fruits ... and the sweetest seasonal fruits are the ones to choose. Try blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, and whatever other ripe and bursting with flavour fresh fruits are available. Apples with Cheddar and pears with Stilton always bring pleasure, and are sure to please.

Charcuterie; Serve thin slices of proscuitto, Serrano ham and sweet or spicy salamis, especially with aged cheeses like Pecorino and Manchego. If you choose to serve crackers, pick unsalted ones, but bread is a must; you can never go wrong with a baguette. Crusty rustic sourdough with creamy soft ripened creations, and grain-packed hearty selections with Cheddars and the like, or perhaps specialty breads with bits of dried fruit and nuts, or olives baked in.

How long does cheese need to warm?

Always remove your cheese from the fridge at least an hour before serving you'll want it at room temperature, ideally between 18 & 23 degrees centigrade. Provide separate knives or serving utensils for each cheese so you don't mix flavours. We like cheese with plain bread or crackers, but you can liven it up with fruit breads and garnishes like dried apricots, Medjool dates, dried cherries or cranberries, nuts, fresh sliced apple or pear, fruit chutney or local honey.

How much cheese do I need? We recommend 40 g per person per cheese, assuming a selection of 3-5 cheeses. We find more than 5 gets overwhelming. That means a standard gift selection, with half a pound of five different cheeses will comfortably feed 8 people for noshes, or 4 people for dinner, if you add some of our wine, bread and perhaps a salad!

How long can I keep my cheese?

Cheese storage guidelines; these times apply to cut cheeses. Whole cheeses, once cut, same guide. But here is a thought thought! Why store it when you know you can eat it all in one sitting? Call your friends!

Hard Cheeses

Cut pieces are generally 2 weeks maximum

Fresh cheeses

should be eaten with 7 days of opening

Soft Cheeses

like Brie and Taleggio should be eaten within 3-5 day

What does it mean for a cheese to be in (or out of) season?Animals left to their natural cycles do not make milk all the time. So its simple; No milk, no cheese.

Goats and sheep are particularly finicky breeders, and tend to mate in the fall and stop milking during the winter months. That may mean shortages of younger styles during December-April.

As for cows, they can produce milk at any time of year, but the early spring and fall milk, when cows munch on grasses and flowers, is considered the most flavourful and fuels singularly delicious cheese.

What to do with the Rind? A good approach is if the rind is a soft, thin skin on the outside of the cheese then you can consider it edible. If the rind is a thick, chewy, hard or sharp-edged crust, then we suggest you do not. (Those hard rinds, such as a Parmesan, are fabulous when added to a stew. Do take it out once your stew is done; it will impart a wonderful flavour to your dish)

What to serve Cheese on ... Platter? Slate? Wooden board? Click hereto see our selection of platters and cake plates; choose from slate, wood, ceramic and glass.

Bia Camembert Side Plates 4pc 13cm (image 1)

Individual Cheese Vintage Cheese plates

Some tips ...The raised lip makes cutting cheese on a plate, particularly a crammed plate, difficult. Why not give each guest there own cheese plate? Click here to view our cheese plates

Slate can be slippery. Wood has faults (like slate, it will get tacky with soft cheese), but there is something aesthetically and practically satisfying about a large wooden chopping board arraigned with cheeses, "extras" and a few sharp knives.