Part of the experience of enjoying artisanal cheese is understanding how the flavor and characteristics reflect the regions from where they came. Here is an overview to some of the most popular countries that produce award-winning cheese:
About French Cheese
France is known as the cheese "capital" of the world with over 1,000 different cheeses. These cheeses represent hundreds of regional varieties, each enjoyed for its own distinctive flavor, texture, shape and appearance. It's no wonder that at The Cheese Course, France represents the country from which we import the largest amount of our artisan cheese. We have ordered over 75 different cheeses from this country alone... cheeses like Comte, Camembert, Epoisses, Brie de Meaux and Roquefort. view our cheeses from France
There are 21 classical regions in France. Some of those regions you may recognize include Burgundy, Normandy, (Northwest France), Champagne, Ile de France, (Northern France), Lorraine, (Northeast France), Auvergne, Loire (Central France), Provence, Savoie (South-East France) Bourdeaux and Pyrenees (Southern France). There are several name-controlled cheeses of France, referred to as "Appellation d'Origine" or A.O.C. Makers of A.O.C. cheeses must adhere to strict guidelines like using milk only from a particular breed of sheep, goat or cow, the area where the milk comes from is the area where the cheese must be made, the size, weight and shape of the cheese, the color, flavor and aroma and specifics regarding the cheesemaking process.
About Italian Cheese
As France is known for the variety of cheeses it produces, Italy is known for the amount of cheese it produces... nearly three times more Italian Cheeses than French Cheeses are imported to the U.S. Italian cheese is rich in its history... Roman soldiers were eating cheese as a part of their diet dating back to 25 B.C. Some of the most popular Italian cheeses are Asiago, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino Romano, Gorgonzola, Mozzarella, Provolone, Ricotta and Taleggio. view our cheeses from Italy
Italy, like France, has regions that each create distinctive cheeses based on the terrain. These regions include Piedmont, Lombardy, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany, Umbria, Abruzzio, Lazio Molise, Campania, Apulia, Basilicata, Calabria, Sardinia and Sicily. Italy has 26 name-controlled cheeses protected by the Denominazione de Origine Controllata (D.O.C.) laws. This means that there are standardized production methods and specific characteristics of the cheese... all meant to preserve the cheesemaking tradition of each cheese.
About Swiss Cheeses
When we think about Swiss Cheese, Gruyere, Emmental and Appenzeller all come to mind. They are rustic and full-flavored cheese and are regarded as some of the best cheese in the world because they are made in lush, mountain pastures where fresh air and pure water are abundant. view our cheeses from Switzerland
Switzerland is said to have the most fierce and severe topography with the Alps comprising nearly 25% of it's territory. All Swiss cheeses are "mountain cheeses" and are usually made from raw cow's milk . They have a firm texture with a hard-rind, (unlike the soft, fresh, perishable cheeses of France which are meant to be eaten soon after they are made). Swiss cheeses are strong enough to last through long, cold winters or last through long journeys through mountain pastures to lowlands where they will be eventually sold.
About Cheeses from Britain:
Some of the most popular cheeses from the British Isles include Cheddar, Cheshire, Shropshire Blue and Stilton. Cheddar is the world's most popular cheese. Although its roots are to England, cheddar is now made everywhere, as cheesemakers scald cow's milk and then repeatedly remove whey and break the curd until it is fine and smooth. But Cheddar is just one of the most notable cheeses from this region. Stilton is England's only name-protected cheese. It's a complicated recipe that requires separate curding processes, mixing evening milk with the full-fat milk of the next morning. Whether it's Cheddar or Stilton or any other of this country's great cheeses, you will be able to appreciate the artisanal quality that comes from the classic cheeses of the British Isles. view our cheeses from Britain
England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland are known for their rich, fertile pastures where delicious Farmhouse cheeses are made. “Farmhouse Cheese” refers to cheese made from milk used by the farmer's own herds or milk purchased from the farmer's cooperative. You can identify some of these farmhouse cheeses by their cloth-wrapped rinds meant, to protect the cheese while it breathes and ages. (Cheeses that are not wrapped are more prone to dry and crack.)
About Spanish Cheeses
Spain produces more than 60 types of cheeses. The most popular cheeses are Manchego and Mahon. With the exception of Manchego, Spanish cheeses are hard to find in the United States. In 1981, Spain took the same protective measurements as other countries like France and Italy to control the quality and authenticity of their traditional cheeses. Spain refers this designation as “Quesos con Denominacion de Origen,” (D.O.). It has added value to Spanish Cheeses as well as ensure that their best and most traditional foods were protected by law from being zcopied or misrepresented. view our cheeses from Spain
Spain has long been associated with the fishing industry, but once you travel beyond the shores, through the mountains, and to the interior regions of this country, the land is open, with lakes, plush pastures and hardwood trees. This sets a perfect environment for grazing animals.
About American Cheeses:
Unlike the other countries who have cheeses that date back hundreds of years to their roots, American cheeses, (with the exception of Jack, Colby and Brick), are not original creations, but adaptations of European originals. Although there are a vast array of factory produced cheeses- most of what you'll find in the grocery store, The Cheese Course focuses on the Artisanal American Cheeses from cheesemakers like Cypress Grove, Coach, Cowgirl Creamery, Maytag, Rogue River Valley, Cabot Creamery, Jasper Hill Farm, Vermont Butter and Cheese, Carr Valley, Roth Kase and Upland's Dairy. We are proud that the United States is now experiencing its own revolution of sorts in artisanal cheesemaking. Our country is rapidly growing its reputation for producing award-winning cheeses that are getting attention from connoisseurs worldwide. view our cheeses from The United States
The United States is a land full of green pastures, rich soil and relatively mild climates. This terrain was ideal for European immigrants to grow wheat crops. Dairy farming followed naturally and it was soon realized that there was plenty of premium milk to go around. As a way to preserve this milk, dairy farmers were attracted to cheesemaking. Today artisan cheesemakers are paying tribute to the America's fertile land and the animals who graze it by producing high quality cheese that is taking the world by storm.
About Cheeses From The Netherlands:
Edam and Gouda are the most popular of the Dutch Cheeses. They are semi-hard cheeses with a mild and sometimes salty taste. When these cheeses are aged, their flavors intensify. Both cheeses are produced in wheels with Gouda averaging about 26 pounds and Edam, much smaller rounds, weighing an average of about 4 pounds. view our cheeses from The Netherlands
The Netherlands for many is the land of windmills, clogs and tulips. It is also the land of lush green meadows and peacefully grazing cattle. This small, densely populated country is the world's largest exporter of cheese and butter.
During the last century the Dutch dairy industry has undergone a radical modernization process. New cowsheds, advance milking machines, computers and automated feeding, have become commomnplace on the farm of today. But at the same time many dairy farms still make cheese using the time honored method. In complete contrast Dutch creameries offer an amazing insight into the advanced of modern technology.
Milk and dairy products are part of the Dutch national heritage and throughout The Netherlands you will find reminders of this heritage. Throughout The Netherlands traditional cheese markets still are held and statues and buildings remain a testimony to the importance of dairying throughout Holland's history.
* Reference material- Cheese Primer by Steven Jenkins