Artisanal Cheese

cheese lover's guide

Don't know your Camembert from your Cambozola? Go from fromage freshman to cheese connoisseur with our helpful breakdown of artisanal cheese varieties.

blue cheese


Just as the name suggests, blue cheese features bluish-green mold veins that give it flavor with bite! From crumbly to creamy, tangy blue cheese gives off a distinctive, heady scent. While it may be an acquired taste for some, blue cheese is delicious crumbled in salads, paired with bread and fruit, or melted on pasta and grilled meats.

Bleu d' Auvergne: Buttery in flavor, this crumbly cow's milk blue-veined cheese from southern France has a mild spiciness that develops with age.

Gorgonzola: This creamy Italian cow's milkcheese is ivory in color and streaked with bluish-green veins. As the savory cheese ages, its pungent flavor intensifies.

Roquefort: Beloved since the Roman Empire, this sheep's milk blue cheese gets its pungent piquant flavor through a months-long ripening process in southwestern France.

Other blue cheeses: Cabrales, Cambozola, Stilton

firm cheese


These grate-able cheeses have very low moisture content and sharper tastes. Since aging makes the cheese not only firmer but also more flavorful and pungent, hard cheeses tend to have a longer shelf life and continue to develop with age. Try them crumbled or grated in your favorite pasta dishes.

Aged Gouda: Mellow and nutty in flavor, this Dutch cow's milk cheese becomes firmer, fruitier and saltier in flavor with age.

Asiago: With a natural, slightly colored rind, this aged cheese delivers a creamy, fruity and slightly sharp taste. Its texture is compact and crumbly, with characteristic small holes.

Grana Padano: Originating in Italy, this cheese comes from non-pasteurized cow's milk and is aged for at least 12 months. It offers a crumbly texture and subtler flavor than the similar Parmesan Cheese.

Other firm/hard cheeses: Cotija, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Dubliner, Romano

fresh cheese


“Fresh” describes rindless cheeses with a high-moisture content that have not been aged, or have been aged for a short time. Usually soft and spreadable with a mild flavor, fresh cheeses are perfect for complementing desserts and savory dishes.

Feta: Traditionally made from goat's milk, this historical Greek cheese is often prepared with cow's milk and has a salty and slightly tangy taste.

Mozzarella: This fresh soft cheese has a creamy, delicate white texture and is often packaged in water to ensure its freshness.

Ricotta: In Italian, ricotta means cooked twice. Ricotta has a fresh spreadable texture with a light milky flavor. High in protein and calcium but low in fat, Ricotta is very versatile.

Other fresh cheeses: Cream Cheese, Fresh Chévre, Mascarpone

semi firm cheese


Aged and packed with flavor, semi-firm cheeses are pressed and molded into rinds to help them solidify. Usually not hard enough to grate and not soft enough to spread, semi-firm cheeses tend to be on the drier side. Layer slices in sandwiches or on cheese plates for the perfect snack.

Gouda: Mellow and nutty in flavor, this Dutch cow's milk cheese contains small holes and has a firm compact texture. A classic snacking cheese, it's ideal added to a serving platter and enjoyed with fresh grapes and walnuts.

Manchego: This sheep's milk cheese is crafted in Spain and ripened by specific methods in order to receive official designation. Add to tapas, grate on vegetables, or serve as a dessert with dried fruits and nuts.

Provolone: An Italian-style cow's milk cheese, Provolone is ivory to pale beige in color. Its flavor ranges from mild to piquant and can sharpen with age.

Other semi-firm cheeses: Swiss, Cheddar, Edam, Gruyere, Jarlsberg, Wensleydale

semi soft cheese


With little to no rind, semi-soft cheeses retain a creamy texture with a higher-moisture content. Easy to melt and ranging from mild to sharp, these pliable cheeses are great for pizza, paninis and fondue.

Fontina: Fontina cheese is a versatile melting cheese, perfect for making sauces, dips or fondues. Originating in Italy, fontina produced in Sweden has a sweet and nutty flavoring.

Havarti: Known for its small, irregular holes, this ivory-colored Danish cheese has tangy and milky aftertastes. The versatile cooking cheese melts well and adds subtle hints of sweet and buttery flavors to your favorite recipes.

Monterey Jack: Created in North America in the late 1800s, Monterey Jack owes its popularity to its slight hazelnut taste and great versatility. Delicious in Mexican dishes or melted in a sandwich or omelet.

Other semi-soft cheeses: Colby, Gorgonzola, Kefalotiri, Port Salut

soft cheese


This type of cheese is typically runny and white with a healthy outside mold that ripens the inside during aging. These soft, buttery cheeses are perfect for spreading. Bring them to room temperature before serving to enjoy their subtle, complex flavors with crackers, grapes and nuts.

Brie: French Brie is known by its bloomy edible white rind and a sensuously soft interior that oozes as it hits peak ripeness.

Camembert: Traditionally made in France from raw milk, this cow's milk cheese now comes in pasteurized versions from around the world. When ripe, Camembert is plump, soft to the touch and oozes thickly.

Explorateur: This seductively rich triple-cream cow's milk cheese ripens with a sweet, slightly piquant flavor.

Other soft cheeses: Humboldt Fog, Boursalt

washed rind cheese

washed rind

Originating in the Middle Ages, these cheeses are often known as the “stinkers” of the cheese family. They are literally washed with a solution of wine, beer, brandy, or brine throughout the aging process (giving them their pink-orange color) to mold growth and make them extra creamy and pungent.

Limburger: Originating in Belgium, this cow's milk cheese, often made in Germany, is known for its exceptionally strong odor and pungent flavor.

Munster: Ranging from mild to complex, this cheese's flavor gets more assertive as it ages. Mild “Muenster” cheeses made in the U.S. differ greatly from strongly flavored European originals.

Taleggio: Renowned in Italy since the 10th century, this whole cow's milk cheese is rich and semisoft. As it ages, Taleggio develops a range of textures, colors and flavors—from mild and sweet to mushroomy.

Other washed-rind cheeses: Appenzeller, Époisses de Bourgogne, Livarot, Winnimere

Want more cheese? Please! Check out our Cheese Lover's Glossary. Read More