30 Nov 2011

On the tip of my tongue: cheese vocabulary

'It's, err, really, like, creamy'
Apart from proving that it is physically possible to eat your own body weight in cheese, the other interesting thing to come out of the World Cheese Awards earlier this month was the different words people use to describe cheese.

Chomping your way through 40-plus cheeses in a few hours was the easy bit in many ways (apples, water and elasticated trousers are the secret). What was really tricky was deciding what was good and bad about each one in terms of flavour and texture, and expressing it clearly and accurately.

It was interesting that on our judging team of four people (including me) certain words kept cropping up. 'Clean', 'grassy', 'caramel' and particularly 'nutty' were popular ways to describe flavour, while 'smooth' and 'creamy' were used a lot for texture.

It's not surprising really. We all naturally tend to favour some words over others and translating what's going on in your mouth into words is tricky. But I did feel that sometimes these stock adjectives were trotted out a bit too quickly (by me just as much as anyone else). There was an over-reliance on certain words because they came to us easily. They weren't necessarily inaccurate, but weren't quite accurate enough.

The Wines & Spirit Education Trust has put together a rather nifty list of adjectives to describe wine, which can be useful when you're tasting and drawing a bit of a blank. You can see it here. So I thought I'd do something similar for cheese.

Here's what I've put together so far: Cheese Vocab

It's only a start. I'm sure there are other much more interesting and expressive words out there for describing cheese. What are your favourites for flavour and texture? What's missing from the list I've drawn up?

Feel free to leave suggestions and I'll add them to the list. It will hopefully build into quite a useful resource.


  1. Hi Patrick, you forgot to add my favourite epithet for washed rind cheeses in particular: 'bad-ass'... Gee, that's some real bad-ass cheese!!
    Works for me!

  2. It's going on now! Feel free to add more. How would you describe your Capra Noveau, for example? And don't say 'creamy'!

  3. Hello there, Iona from Ribblesdale Cheese. I like your list, very impressive and comprehensive.

    I honestly cannot think of anything more, but I have to ask you...wet dog?

    Iona, Ribblesdale Cheese

  4. Hi Iona, Nice to see you on here. Thanks for your comments! I always think soggy dog with some washed rind cheeses. They have that slightly damp musky smell!

  5. Hi Patrick, know what you mean. By the way, have put a post about and a permanent link to your blog. Hope this is ok!
    best, Iona