From fresh to aged, smoked to salty, stinky to sweet, good cheese can come in many forms. The options vary even further when it comes to the milk options – cow, goat, sheep, even buffalo – with their country of origin playing a massive role in overall flavour. But where can you go to find the best of the best? We’ve tracked down the world’s best cheeses to inspire even the most discerning of cheese-lovers.
Parmigiano Reggiano, Parma, Italy | Probably the most-loved cheese in human history, everything about the culture and recipe of Parmesan is a testament to nutritional ingenuity. The creation process is one of the world’s most sophisticated and efficient technologies, developing a saliva-inducing flavor that adds depth to almost any dish.
Roquefort, Les Causses; France | Roquefort is the best of the blues for a number of reasons: Charlemagne loved it, its pasty texture makes it a great mix of spreadable and hackable, and its use of sheep’s milk over cow’s makes for a lingering richness. For the best of the best, try smaller producers such as Coulet, Papillion, and Carles.
Brie de Melun, Ile-de-France, France | Not just for Christmas, Brie is a universally popular cheese and the most famous of the soft ripened category. A word of caution though – the real, raw milk brie is made in Ile-de-France, and more specifically, the village of Melun. Rustic, earthy and nutty at the same time.
Gruyère, Fribourg, Switzerland | This cooked-curd alpine cheese is one of the most famous cheeses in the world, with a pliable texture and strong intensity of flavour. A noticeably nutty, yet buttery tang stems from propionic acid, while the more well-aged tend to posses small, crunchy pieces of crystallising protein.
Stichelton, Nottinghamshire, England | Real Stilton, Britain’s beloved blue, is made with raw milk, which provides a nutty, rich flavour.
Mozzarela di Bufala, Naples, Italy | While mozzarella is everywhere (on almost every pizza, in sandwiches and sparingly placed on pasta dishes), fresh handmade mozzarella is of course something completely different from its rubbery, overused neighbour. And if this is true, then di Bufala is not even on the same planet. Water Buffalo from farms in Naples are milked to make this incredible cheese.
Feta, Greece | While a pickled cheese may seem odd, true Greek Feta, made from sheep’s milk and salt, is a delicious and distinctive cheese that makes a great salad condiment.
English Farmhouse Cheddar, Somerset, England | A classic. Cheddar, deriving from the west country of England, is an EU protected cheese that’s a far cry from the supermarket variety. Meaty and salty at the same time, what’s not to love?
Roncal, Navarre, Spain | In the thirteen villages of the Roncal valley of Navarre, Roncal cheese has been made using the same recipe for the past 3,000 years. Made from sheep’s milk, it smells a lot like buttered popcorn, with a taste that lingers long after its been swallowed.
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Purple Travel Tip: Swiss cheesemakers have won The World Champion Cheese Contest for the past three years, however for 2012, it was a low-fat Gouda named Vermeer from Friesland Campina, a company based in Wolvega, Netherlands, that took top honours.