Below is a list of words you may hear us use from time to time when talking all things cheese. We've put together some of the most common and fundamental terms to help deepen your understanding of cheese - from the field to your taste buds.

ACIDIC – a word used to explain sour or citric flavours, often found in goats cheese

AFFINAGE – the ripening or maturing of cheese

AFFINEUR – a specialist in the art of maturing cheese 

ALPAGE (or d’alpage) – a French term used to describe the Alpine fields where herds of cattle migrate in summer to eat the fresh natural glass & alpine flowers after the snow has melted

ANNATO – orange-red dye obtained from the natural pigment in the seeds found on Annatto trees found in South America. eg. Shropshire Blue

AOC (Appellation d’Origine Controlee) – ‘The controlled destination of origin’ is a French governing body whose primary role is to regulate the quality & origin of French food & wine 

AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protégée) Protected Designation of Origin

ARTISAN – a high-quality or distinctive product made in small quantities, usually by hand or using traditional methods

ASH – traditionally used on the surface of fresh cheeses to promote drying and inhibit mould growth. eg. Rond du chevre


BACTERIA – is a vital element in the cheese making process. From the starter culture used to inoculate the milk at curdling stage, through to specific cultures added for ripening particular cheeses

BETA-CAROTENE – a naturally occurring vitamin A found in grass and clover which cows then absorb and deposit into their milk. Carotenoids are fat soluble, meaning the more milk fat in a cheese, the more yellow it is likely to be. Goats and sheep break down beta-carotene into colourless vitamin A 

BIODYNAMIC – a form of organic farming based on a holistic and spiritual understand of nature 

BLOOMY RINDS – another term for white mould or surface ripened cheese, such as Camemberts, Bries & triple crèmes

BLUE CHEESE (or blue vein cheese) – a style of cheese that is ripened by the ventilated action of moulds growing from within, resulting in blue-green veins webbing the cheese’s interior

BREBIS – French for sheep

BREVIBACTERIUM LINENS (B-linens) – a ‘good’ bacteria encouraged to develop on the rind by washing cheese, usually in a brine or alcohol solution eg. Munster

BRINE – a strong salt solution used to wash the outside of some cheeses to encourage bacterial growth and prevent unwanted moulds from developing


CABRA – Spanish for goat

CAPRA – Italian for goat

CHEDDARING – the process used to make cheddar, where the curds are cut and pressed a number of times to remove moisture. After milling and hooping, the cheese is finished in a cheddar press

CHEESEMITES – are microscopic arthropods (Tyrophagus casei) sometimes found living on the surface of naturally aged cheese. They pose no health risk to humans but can damage cheese by eating into the rind, causing cracking and allowing unwanted moulds in. Cheesemites are encouraged to grow on some cheeses eg. Mimolette to promote drying during maturation 

CHEESEMONGER – a person who sells cheese in a specialty store, also known as a Fromager  

CHÉVRE – French for goat

CLOTHBOUND – cheddar is traditionally wrapped in a cotton cloth to retain its shape during maturation and reduce moisture loss 

COAGULATION – the separation of the solids and liquids (curds and whey) in milk caused by the addition of rennet

CRYSTALS – crystals form in cheese during maturation and can be made up of protein (amino acids) or calcium lactate, but not salt. For a deeper dive, click here for more.

CURD – the solid that forms when milk coagulates after adding rennet. Curds are the base of all types of cheese  


DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) – Italian classification Denomination of Controlled Origin

DOP (Denominazione d’Origine Protetta) – Italian classification Protected Designation of Origin  

DOLCE – Italian for sweet/soft often used to describe gorgonzola

DOUBLE BRIE – a soft white mould cheese that has been enriched by adding extra cream


EARTHY – a word used to describe cheese with rustic flavours, often cloth bound cheddars displaying hints of mushroom and grass 

EYES – The small eye-shaped holes that form in a cheese as a result of the gas produced during fermentation. Emmentaler is a great example of this


FARMHOUSE (also farmstead) – specifically cheese made on the farm using milk produced from the cheesemakers own animals  

FAT IN CHEESE cheese is generally 20 - 40% fat. Some labels use the term MG or fat in dry matter. In this instance, the fat is measured as a percentage of the dry content of the cheese. Under this description, soft cheeses are around 45% fat and triple cremes are closer to 75%

FERMIER french descriptor that indicates that the cheese is made on one farm and only from the milk of those animals  

FERMENTATION – an age-old metabolic process that creating desirable changes in food and beverages to increase flavour, preserve food stuffs and increase digestibility

FERMENTATION-PRODUCED CHYMOSIN (FPC) – colloquially known as microbial rennet, FPC is a reliable, cost-effective non animal rennet for use in cheese production 

FORMAGGIO – Italian for cheese

FRESH CHEESE – young cheese prior to maturation which has no visible rind or growth of mould, eg. ricotta, feta, fresh chévre, fromage frais

FROMAGE – French for cheese

FROMAGERIE – French for cheese shop


GEOTRICHUM CANDIDUM –a natural yeast used in surface ripened and washed rind cheese. It's also responsible for the wrinkled appearance on cheeses such as Holy Goat La Luna

GLOBULES – meaning drop or particle and generally used in relation to fat. Milk fat globules vary depending on the size and breed of animal that the milk is from 


HARD CHEESE – mature cheeses that have lost their moisture, which have often developed a thick rind. eg. Cheddar, Parmigiano Reggiano, Manchego

HERBACEOUS – a term used to describe cheese flavours that shows hints of grass, herbs and flowers, absorbed in the milk from the diet of the animal 

HOOP – a shaped container usually with drainage holes, which allows for cheese curds to drain before pressing, salting and maturing

HUMIDITY – the amount of moisture in the air. Cheeses prefer a relatively high humidity environment (75-95% relative humidity) during the maturation process. Cheese was traditionally matured in underground caves due to their natural high humidity and modern cheese facilities are built to mimic these conditions


LACTATION – the period of time covering the milk production season of an animal, between giving birth and drying out 

LACTIC SET – a simple process of making cheese made with just the addition of acid (with little or no rennet used). This was typical of early styles of farmhouse cheeses, commonly using goats milk to produce fresh, younger cheeses 

LACTIC ACID – lactose is converted into lactic acid during maturation

LACTOSE – sugar found naturally in milk

LATTE VACCINO – Italian for cows milk


MILLING – the process of breaking down the curd into small pieces to increase surface area and drive out moisture

MOULD (or mold American spelling) – a vital part of cheese production, moulds influence both the texture and flavour of cheese. Different moulds give Roquefort (Penicillium roqueforti) is distinctive spidery veins and Epoisses (Bacterium linens) its terracotta coloured rind  


NATURAL RIND – a term used to describe cheese rind that has formed without surface moulds, washing or wrapping eg. Stilton

NUTTY – a word often used to describe the flavour of hard or aged cheeses. eg. Gruyere


ORGANIC – refers to farming and production methods without the use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and other artificial chemicals 

OVEJA – Spanish for sheep   


PASTEURISATION – the process of heating milk to a specific temperate (72° C) for a specific time (15 seconds) in order to eliminate any disease-producing bacteria that are naturally occurring in milk

PASTE/PATE – a term used to describe the interior of a cheese

PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) – the system put into place by the European Union to protect a regional specialty food produced in a specific geographic area

PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) – the system put into place by the European Union to protect regional food with a link to a given geographical area

PECORA – Italian for sheep

PENICILLIUM CANDIDUM – the white mould that grows on soft, bloomy white mould cheeses like Brie & Camembert giving it a mushroom aroma and taste 

PENILCILLIUM ROQUEFORTI – a specific blue mould culture, traditionally grown on rye bread and used to make blue cheese 

PICCANTE – Italian for spicy. Often used to describe blue or mature goats cheeses 

PIERCING – creating airways in a wheel of cheese using thick needles to encourage the development of blue mould 

PRESSING – a process used on semi-hard and hard cheeses where weight is applied to the young cheese to extract whey (also see Cheddar)

PROCESSED CHEESE – cheese that is heated along with an emulsifying agent, oil and water then shaped whilst hot before being packaged in plastic for sale.We don't sell this!

PROTEOLYSIS - the breakdown of proteins by enzymes, acids, alkalis or heat.  In cheese, this occurs during maturation and contributes to the softening of softcheeses


QUESO – Spanish for cheese


RAW MILK – milk in its natural state, which has not been pasteurised or heat-treated 

RENNET – when added to warm, fresh milk, rennet kick starts the cheese making process by coagulating the milk into curds and whey

  • ANIMAL RENNET – an enzyme extracted from the fourth stomach lining of a milk-fed animal
  • MICROBIAL RENNET – rennet produced suitable for vegetarians (see FPC)
  • VEGETABLE COAGULENTS – rennet created from vegetables (eg. thistle) - these are less common due to their inconsistency and bitter flavours

RIND – the exterior of a cheese which protects the paste of the cheese

RIPE – a term used when a cheese is ready to eat

RIPENING – the process of maturing cheese to develop flavour and texture.  


SEMI-HARD CHEESE – smooth textured cheeses, with a low moisture content and dense consistency such as Ossau Iraty and Raclette

STARTER CULTURE – a specific blend of bacteria that are used to start the fermentation process in cheesemaking

STRETCHED CURD – heat treated cheeses from the pasta filata family such as mozzarella, bocconcini and halloumi


TERROIR – is a French term that refers to the impact that local conditions of soil, weather and vegetation have on the food or wine of that region

THERMISED MILK – the process of treating raw milk by heating to approx 65°C for less than 15 seconds. This is a gentler process than pastueristion that minimises heat damage

TOMME – a French term meaning “small round cheese”. They often identified by their region or milk type eg. Tomme de Savoie or Tomme de Chévre  

TRIPLE CREAM CHEESE (TRIPLE-CRÈME) – describes a soft cheese made from milk encriched with cream or crème fraiche. The finished product should have a minimum of 75% fat in dry matter (see FAT)  


UNCOOKED, PRESSED – semi hard or hard cheeses that are pressed during production such as Cantal

UBRIACO – meaning drunk in Italian. Often used as a term to describe Northern Italian wine washed & grape-must encrusted cheeses  

UNPASTEURISED – milk that has not undergone the pasteurisation process  


VACA – Spanish for cow

VACHE – French for cow 


WASHED RIND – a style of cheese that has been washed periodically in either a brine or alcohol such as wine, beer or spirit during the ripening produce. They are recognisable by their orange rind that is often smelly and sticky, eg. Epoisses de Bourgogne

WAX – a protective barrier now only used to make cheese appear attractive as opposed to offering any genuine maturing qualities (We don't sell waxed cheese)

WHEY – the liquid residue of milk after most of the solids, including the fats, have coagulated into curd 

By Olivia Sutton