assortment of cheesesCheese-Buying 101

Use this guide to buy the best grocery-store cheese and master how to use and pair them.


Cheese Style
Serving Ideas
Buying & Tasting Tips
Pairing Ideas
Soft, fresh Chèvre, Fromage Blanc Salads, spreads, dips (both savory and sweet)
Look for small production
and local producers for the
freshest flavor
Wine: Crisp, dry or lightly sweet whites, such as Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling; Beer: Light, crisp German style such as Hefeweizen
Bloomy, white mold-ripened Camembert, Humboldt Fog, Brie Roasted beet salad,
Should feel tender, but not oozing; should smell of mild mushrooms and not overly of ammonia; rind should still adhere to the interior and not be thick Wine: Buttery Chardonnay,
rich sparkling wine; Beer: Light pilsner or fruit-flavored ales
Aged cheddar & semisoft aged cheeses such as Monterey Jack Tillamook, Grafton Village, Vella
Ultimate grilled cheese sandwich, macaroni
and cheese
Look for those aged a year or more and uncolored; texture should be even and smooth, between sliceable and crumbly,
dry but rich
Wine: Medium reds like Syrah; BEER: Medium, slightly bitter such as pilsner or amber lager
Long-aged English & domestic cheddars Montgomery’s, Cabot Clothbound, Beecher’s Flagship Almost always a stand-alone for the cheese plate with figs and other sweet preserves
The best are aged at least one to two years and made from raw milk; look for a golden, nutty interior that crumbles easily, but tastes buttery and rich; not dry and pasty Wine: Heavy reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or dry sherry; Beer: Dark, powerful,  bitter or mellow such as stouts
Alpine-style semihard to hard cheese Gouda, Appenzeller, Pleasant Ridge Reserve, Vermont Shepherd Use alone on the cheese plate or combine with others in a multitude of dishes calling for aged, hard cheeses Aged six months to a year or more; texture should be firm and hard but pliable, not crumbly; avoid those
wrapped in plastic for too long
Wine: Dry whites such as Pinot Gris, Chardonnay or Viognier, or medium-bodied reds such as Syrah, Merlot; Beer: Strong, dark such as bock or dark lager
Stinky red or orange washed rind Limburger, Winnimere, Red Hawk, Munster Almost always a stand-alone cheese served with simple crackers, rustic bread, fruit and libation; rind is often not eaten Should be soft, but not totally liquid; should smell pungent and a bit of sulfur, but not make your eyes water Wine: Crisp, full-bodied whites such as Viognier and Pinot Gris;
Beer: Belgian-style pale ale
Blue Stilton, Rogue River Blue, Roquefort Salads, cheeseburgers and stand-alone as final cheese course Look for even veins of color from greenish yellow to true blue; texture should be fairly creamy, depending on style; avoid any with liquid in package

Wine: Heavy, sweet such as port;
Beer: Strong, dark, bitter or sweet such as barley wine

Extra-hard cheeses
Parmigiano-Reggiano, Grana Padano, Romano Grated on pastas, pizzas, salads and combined with other cheeses for extra flavor; serve superior brands on a cheese plate with apples, pears and nuts Aged three to five years for maximum flavor; interior should be dark ivory to almost golden, flaky with tiny, crunchy protein crystals; avoid pieces that have been wrapped in plastic for too long  Wine: Many styles—crisp sparkling, dry sherry and medium- to full-bodied reds such as Merlot; Beer: Many types work including medium-bodied amber ales and hoppy ales such as IPAs

For more information and tips on buying cheese from the grocery store, read the original article, A Guide to Grocery Store Cheese Selection.

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