Tasting is believing

Cheeses offer an infinite variety of tastes and nuances, and a meticulous, trained approach is required to enjoy the multitude of varieties available to the full.
So, let’s set our senses in motion. Before we purchase a cheese, we should use our sense of sight to examine the shape, the colour, the holes, the thickness and any imperfections present on the rind. Then we should use our sense of smell, by sniffing the cheese in order to activate the olfactory sensations. The initial, instinctive impression will be followed by an olfactory impression. Our sense of smell allows us to perceive two olfactory sensations: aroma and odour.
The aroma is given by the volatile substances which come directly from the milk and the enzymes, and is more pronounced in raw milk cheeses; while the odour is formed by volatile substances created by the fermentation process and develops as the cheese matures. Our sense of smell allows us to evaluate the following: the frankness of the olfactory sensations, which must be neat, clean, without unpleasant notes; the fineness, when the pleasantness perceived is also delicate; and lastly, the intensity, measured by evaluating the consistency and the strength of the aroma.
And this brings us to the moment of tasting. Chew the cheese slowly so that the paste becomes moistened by the saliva and warmed by the movement of the mouth, in order for the enzymes present in the saliva to bring out the flavour of the various elements.
The four types of chemoreceptors present on the surface of the tongue allow us to perceive the four basic tastes: sweet on the tip, salty along the sides, sour on the inside and bitter at the back; the central part of the tongue perceives the tactile sensations of smoothness, flouriness, sandiness and graininess.
The balance of the four tastes renders the cheese more or less harmonious in flavour. The taste in the mouth evolves from the initial sweet taste of the first contact to the sour and bitter tastes which create the final impression of the pleasantness of the sample.
The persistent of taste and smell sensations is an important factor in defining the structure and quality of a cheese; it ranges from 4-5 seconds for cheeses which are less aromatic and pungent to 7-10 seconds for those which are more aromatic, pungent and piquant. Chewing also allows the cheese-taster to judge how smooth, hard, oily and palatable the paste of a cheese is.

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