The nation’s cheese merchants know better than anyone which new cheeses are about to catch fire. They sample dozens of newcomers during the year, fall in love with some and—perhaps more important—discover which ones click with consumers.
To give you a preview of the tastiest cheeses coming at you in 2017, I asked retailers around the country to nominate some sleeper hits from this year—new arrivals that exceeded expectations and flew out the door.
“Good question! First is Quattro Latte from Italy: cow, sheep, goat and donkey milk. Flavor and texture are like a classic Italian table cheese. Second is Chevoo, fresh goat cheese in olive oil with flavors. It’s so likable, and the versatility in cooking is making it a kitchen staple. Our best seller is Aleppo-Urfa Chili and Lemon (pictured at top).”
Kristin Sande, ACS CCP, Valley Cheese and Wine, Henderson, NV
“Sennerei Huban’s ‘Alp Blossom’ was a big hit. We would bring in wheels and they would disappear. Who knew a simple Austrian cow’s milk cheese coated in herbs and flowers would do so well in the middle of summer, but this visually stunning cheese really drew people in. Small-format French goat cheeses, like Mothais sur Feuille and Bonde d’Antan, also moved well all year long—I think because of their consistency and simplicity.”
Jon Fancey, Bi-Rite Markets. San Francisco
“Jasper Hill Farms Willoughby washed with Transmitter Brewing’s H1. This year Jasper Hill released several different experimental cheeses washed with beers from small regional breweries. H1 is a harvest ale fermented in oak barrels with Zinfandel grapes. The squishy cheese tastes of malt, yeast and grapes, and it has been a runaway success at our counter.”
Beth Lewand, Eastern District, Brooklyn
“P’tit Cattenoz (aka Tarentais) is probably our best new cheese. It's made (in the Savoie region of France) by a husband and wife who have about 100 goats. Each batch has been different but always delicious. My other favorite for the year is La Dama Sagrada, another raw goat's milk cheese. It’s Manchego-like but with its own unique goat attributes. And it’s affordable, so I can’t say I'm surprised that it's done so well.”
Linh Nguyen, Cheese Board Collective, Berkeley
“Chandoka! Everyone who tastes it loves it and the price is great. Win, win.”
Cj Bienert, Cheese Shop of Des Moines
“We nominate Stepladder Creamery's Ragged Point from Cambria, California. Our mongers cite its complex flavor and finish and, for us, the local factor.”
Rob Graff, Venissimo Cheese, San Diego
So here's a New Year's resolution to consider: When you shop for cheese next year, break out of your comfort zone. If you buy a cheese you know and love, choose another, unfamiliar, that the merchant recommends. You'll be a much more astute taster a year from now.