Aging, sometimes called ripening, is the most important stage of cheese production. By allowing cheeses to rest in controlled conditions, they develop the appearance, texture, flavor and aroma qualities that make them unique.
During aging, the bloom blossoms on Camembert, the holes burst into Swiss, and the veins shoot through Gorgonzola. The mildest cheeses, like ricotta, cream and cottage, are consumed fresh and not ripened at all while Parmigiano Reggiano is aged three years, giving it a very complex nutty somewhat fruity taste and a hard, gritty texture.
Why Age Cheese - What's Happening?
Normally cheeses are aged under controlled conditions from a few days to several years. As a cheese ages, microbes and enzymes transform texture and intensify flavor. This transformation is largely a result of the breakdown of casein proteins and milkfat into a complex mix of amino acids, amines, and fatty acids.
Some cheeses have prepared cultures (bacteria or molds) intentionally introduced before aging. These cheeses include soft ripened cheeses such as Brie and Camembert, blue cheeses such as Roquefort, Stilton, Gorgonzola, and rind-washed cheeses such as Limburger.
Cheese Club Deliveries
Every quarter we taste and select cheeses that pair perfectly with each of our wines being sent to the Wine Club. These cheeses are available via an optional Cheese Club. Three cheeses are selected, cut, wrapped and shipped to you to enjoy with the three wine selections for that shipment.
These cheese selections are sent separately from the wines in insulated packaging with frozen cool packs enclosed to ensure you receive them in perfect condition.
How to Store your Cheese
It is best practice to re-wrap cheese that has been opened with new, clean wrapping and designate a location in your refrigerator that is free from strongly aromatic foods because the cheese may absorb the aromas. Most modern refrigerators have a “dairy” or “cheese” drawer.
Because cheese is a biologically active living food, wash your hands with soap and water before handling and avoid cross-contamination of cheese flavors by cleaning knives and cutting boards with boiling water between cuttings.
Fresh, rindless cheeses such as Mascarpone, Fresh Mozzarella, Queso Blanco, Ricotta and Feta, should be stored at 35°F to 39°F. Place the cheese in a plastic container covering it tightly in storage to avoid flavor absorption from other foods. Feta keeps best when stored in a salt brine bath in a tightly sealed plastic container. If you find mold on a fresh, rindless cheese, discard the entire product.
Semi-soft, rindless cheeses such as Cheddar, Muenster, Havarti, Colby, Baby Swiss, Swiss, Farmers, Fontina, Monterey Jack and Queso Quesadilla should be stored at 40°F to 45°F, wrapped in parchment or waxed paper first and then again in plastic wrap.
NATURAL RIND CHEESE
Natural rind cheeses include semi-hard and hard grating cheeses such as Parmesan, Romano, Asiago, GranQueso, Aged Provolone and Kasseri. Store natural rind cheeses at 40°F to 45°F tightly wrapped in plastic wrap to prevent moisture loss. If the plastic wrap imparts a slightly “plastic” flavor to the cheese, simply scrape the cheese surface before serving.
WASHED RIND & BLOOMY RIND & CHEVRE
Washed rind cheeses include Petit Basque, Gruyère, Limburger, Raclette, Butterkäse, Italian styleFontina, Brick, German (Aged) Brick and Wisconsin originals such as Knight’s Vail, Les Fréres, Pleasant Ridge Reserve and Italico.
Bloomy rind include Camembert and Brie. Bloomy Rind cheeses are surface ripened. This means that the surrounding fluffy white mold encourages the proper ripening of the interior paste of the cheese. During the cheese making process, the outside of the cheese is coated with Penicillium candidum, which is a specific mold culture that forms into a “bloomy” edible crust. As the flavor-producing candidum mold begins to break down, a creaminess spreads throughout the interior of the cheese, giving it an optimal flavor and smooth texture.
Chevre is a generic term for cheese made from the milk of goats, chevre meaning goat in French. Some chevre have rinds while some do not.
Store all these cheeses at 40°F to 50°F and at an elevated humidity of 65%. After the cheese is cut, wrap it in waxed or parchment paper and place it in a plastic container pierced with several holes to allow air circulation. If the cheese appears to be drying out, place a clean, slightly damp paper towel in the bottom of the container to elevate the humidity.
If the cheese begins to smell ammoniated, remove it from the container and let it sit uncovered in the refrigerator or on a clean counter. Once the odor is no longer present, rewrap the cheese in clean paper and refrigerate. If the odor persists after 2 to 3 hours, discard the cheese.
Blue-veined cheeses include Blue Cheese and firm or Italian-style Gorgonzola. Store at 40°F to 45°F at elevated humidity levels, wrapped in aluminum foil, preferably the original foil of the cheese. Finding mold on a blue-veined cheese is usually a good thing, however, if the mold is across the surface and is darker than usual then discard the entire piece.
Our Cheese Selection Procedure
Several Wine Club Members originally asked us to pair our wines with cheeses. We decided to look at cheeses on a global scale where we found hundreds of small creameries producing unique cheeses in limited quantities. Our cheese database now has over seven hundred exceptional cheeses many of which we have paired with our wines.
Through our Cheese Club we provide a quarterly shipment of three selected “Village Cheeses”. The three cheeses in each shipment are paired with the three wines in our quarterly Wine Club shipment.