Terroir – What does it mean and how does it affect your cheesemaking?

The term terroir is generally used and understood most frequently within the wine industry. It explains how the soil, micro climate etc behave with the flavour of a wine, which is why some vintages are better than others. While there is a lot that goes into the terroir or wine, we’re here to talk about cheese! When the term is applied to cheese, as it is more and more frequently done, it includes the same factors of pastures and weather, but also goes on to include the animal and its overall health. Happy cows after all, make better cheese.

Lets us paint a clearer picture. If you’re using milk from the same animal, but changing it’s location you will get a different flavour as animals produce different lactic bacteria in different areas. This bacteria will in turn affect your cheese. Essentially, the better the environment the animal is in, the better the milk, which means the best ┬ácheese.

So what are you looking for in your milk? Well, it all starts with the cow. Buying local is much more than a hashtag when purchasing your milk. Local milk will be much fresher, it doesn’t need to travel as far and if the farmer has it’s own bottling plant they have more control over the overall quality and flavour of the milk. It will also have its own unique blend of lactic bacteria naturally occurring within the milk. If you have your own milking cow, even better!

In a good quality cheese, you should be able to taste the pasture the cow was grazing within your milk and in turn, within your cheese. This is especially true for raw milk cheeses. This is why artisan made, small producers can claim that you won’t be able to find cheese like theres anywhere. Because you won’t be able to recreate their special micro-climate or terroir. It’s also why you see variation in their product from time to time. So embrace the differences and enjoy the variations the terroir brings!