The Terroir of Cheese: Exploring the Influence of Farm Location

Cheese Making

Personality oozes out of every artisan cheese, and there's a magical element that sets each piece apart, telling a tale not just of its maker but of its homeland. This element is terroir, a French term that means "A Sense of Place." At Rennet and Rind, we’ve lifted the curtain on how artisan cheese is made in our partner farms, and now we’re going to examine how the location and circumstances of a farm can contribute directly to its fromage produce, and it all comes down to terroir.

Terroir is often discussed in the context of other fine foods and drinks such as grapes and wine, but its influence on cheese is equally profound. It encompasses everything from the pasture where cows graze to the ageing process in unique environmental conditions, from cellars built inside hills to our very own maturing room. This binding of nature and nurture results in cheese that captures the essence of its place of origin.

Terroir is the reason why you can have the same artisan cheese made in France and Britain and they’ll have different flavour and aroma profiles. A study conducted in 2016 highlighted this beautifully, showing that the difference between raw and pasteurised versions of the same cheese becomes more pronounced as it ages, with data suggesting the geographical location of the milk source affects the flavour of the raw milk cheese. Through cheese, we can explore the world with our senses, tracing the origins of each flavour back to its roots.

First Things First: What Does Terroir Mean?

Understanding terroir is about first appreciating the natural elements that influence the final flavour of cheese. From the local flora that feeds the livestock to the climate and geography that surrounds the ageing rooms, every factor plays a part in shaping the cheese's identity.

My own journey of discovery took me to Saint Haon le Chatel in Nr Roanne, France, a village that looks out of time. There, I worked alongside Herve MonS - Meilleur Ouvrier de France, an important ambassador for French cheese, learning the art and science of maturing cheese across 9 maturing cellars. Seeing up close just how deeply connected the grasslands and arched brick hallways around me worked their way into the cheese hit me with an epiphany, and allowed me to become the two-time Affineur of the Year-winner I am today.

How Location Affects Artisan Cheese

Artisan cheeses are a reflection of their environment, embodying the character and spirit of their wider location. Take, for example, the Cornish Yarg, a cheese that echoes Cornwall's mild climate and verdant pastures through its nettle-wrapped rind and lemony undertones. Equally, you don’t need someone to tell you that cheeses like Hebridean Blue or Isle of Mull come from the Scottish Highlands, because you can already taste the punchy saltiness of the fishing village from which it was made. Bite into the latter cheese and you’ll get a rich, hearty flavour with undertones of the ale and whisky that take you right to the distillery in which it is made.

Raw Milk Cheese is the Ultimate Terroir Experience

Raw milk cheese is the type of cheese you need if you wish to experience the fullest extent of terroir’s powers. Negating the standard pasteurisation process and thus teeming with natural bacteria, raw milk cheese leaves everything up to the unpredictability and richness of nature. Each batch is influenced by the subtle nuances of weather, season, and pasture.

Westcombe Cheddar is matured in a maturing room built into a hill on a picturesque Somerset farm, and this creates a complex flavour with a mellow lactic tang and long notes of citrus, hazelnut and caramel - deep flavours that taste like they’ve been brewing underground.

Meanwhile, Old Roan Wensleydale’s lemony zing reverberates in your mouth long after you eat it, in large part because of its cloth-bound maturation period of 3-4 months, retaining more moisture than similar cheeses that are made more quickly. This also creates a more surprising texture, one that’s more like a sticky butter than more traditional crumbly Wensleydales.

Of course, no two batches of cheese will taste the same. But it’s that unpredictability that makes you savour each bite, knowing that it’s a one-of-a-kind cheese.

The Magic of the Maturing Room

The maturation process is where the magic of terroir is sealed into the cheese. The character of the ageing room—its climate, materials, and even its shape—plays a crucial role in the development of the cheese's flavour profile. The historic barns where Appleby’s Cheshire matures, for example, imbue the cheese with the essence of Cheshire's salt marshes, while the traditional cellars of Pitchfork Cheddar in Somerset foster a depth and complexity that is nothing short of mesmerising.

Terroir in cheese is a reminder of the beauty of diversity and the importance of preserving the unique practices of artisan cheesemaking. It challenges us to seek out those one-of-a-kind experiences and to savour the unexpected.

Explore the Influence of Terroir with Rennet and Rind’s British Artisan Cheeses

If you are eager to see, feel and taste how terroir impacts artisan cheeses first-hand, Rennet and Rind is an award-winning shop where the craftsmanship of British cheesemaking is available right on your doorstep. We take pride in offering a carefully selected assortment of acclaimed artisan cheeses which let nature define it, including many raw milk cheeses. Each cheese is produced independently on local farms using time-honoured practices, so by choosing Rennet and Rind, you’re supporting and preserving the work of artisan cheesemakers. Your journey towards the UK’s finest cheese varieties awaits you here at Rennet and Rind.


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Cornish Yarg - Rennet & Rind British Artisan Cheese
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Hebridean Blue
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Westcombe Cheddar - Rennet & Rind British Artisan Cheese
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Appleby's Cheshire - Rennet & Rind British Artisan Cheese

Perry James Wakeman

Head Cheesemonger of Rennet & Rind. Qualified MonS Affineur, World Cheese Awards Judge and Patron/Trainer of The Academy of Cheese.

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