I’ve gotten so used to tasting cheeses regularly, the tasting process comes almost automatically to me. Some people have asked me what the proper way to taste a cheese is. Really, there is no one way to taste a cheese, but here is what I generally look for when I’m faced with a new specimen:
Milk type: What kind of milk is it made from? Cow? Sheep? Goat? Buffalo? Camel? Some kind of blend? Is it pasteurized milk, or raw?
Origins: Where was it made? By what creamery?
Type: What “type” of cheese is it? Fresh cheese? Soft? Soft-ripened? Surface-ripened? Semi-soft? Semi-hard? Hard? Blue? Washed-rind? Sometimes, a single cheese can fall under several categories.
Bouquet: What does it smell like? There is no right answer because everyone comes from a unique sensory background. Some example descriptors are musky, mushroomy, grassy, or lactic.
Appearance/the rind: What is the rind like? Is it a natural rind? Is it multicolored? What color is it? Is it a fluffy, bloomy rind? Is it wrinkly? Is it wrapped in foil or some other material (like herbs, leaves, ash, etc.)?
Appearance/the paste: What does the interior, or paste, look like? What color is it? Is it dull or shiny? Does the paste have little holes, or eyes?
Taste: What can you taste on your tongue? Does it taste milky? Nutty? Fruity? Earthy? Something else? Can you taste the characteristics of the milk?
Mouthfeel: What does the cheese do on your tongue? Does it feel smooth and velvety, or gritty? Does it feel flinty and flaky? Does it melt in the mouth, or break down stubbornly? Does the feel go away quickly, or does it linger?
Aftertaste: Is there one? Can you taste the cheese after you’ve swallowed it? Does it linger, or is it gone quickly?
And there you have it, a typical cheese tasting. It usually takes a couple of bites for me to tick off all of the items on my mental checklist. I hope this helps! Happy tasting, dear readers!