Supermarket cheese taste test: what to buy and what to avoid

If there's one Christmas party platter constant, it's cheese. Maybe Jatz, too, but always cheese. Ideally, you want to source your brie and blue from a fromagerie or delicatessen. Somewhere you can chat to staff, try a few things and know you're taking home quality gear.

However, there's a world of cheese choice in major supermarkets now, including imported French and Italian numbers. Is it possible to buy great cheese from a checkout? We thought it would be fun to taste test a few, so when you're doing that big Christmas grocery shop, you can have a better idea of what's worth putting on a biscuit and what to avoid.

The cheese team. From left: James Foley, restaurant manager Gerard's Bistro, Bonnie Shearston, restaurateur, Graham Redhead, cheesemaker and Ben Williamson, executive chef Gerard's Bistro.

The cheese team. From left: James Foley, restaurant manager Gerard's Bistro, Bonnie Shearston, restaurateur, Graham Redhead, cheesemaker and Ben Williamson, executive chef Gerard's Bistro. Photo: Lisa Maree Williams

The panel

Grahame Redhead – a professional cheesemaker and cheese judge, Redhead runs intensive two-day cheesemaking courses in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. (Check out cheesemaking.com.au if you're keen.)

Ben Williamson – executive chef of Brisbane's two-hatted Gerard's Bistro and Brisbane Times 2017 Good Food Guide Citi Chef of the Year.

James Foley – restaurant manager and top wine bloke at Gerard's Bistro.

Bonnie Shearston – restaurateur and cheese obsessive behind award-winning Brisbane venues such as Coppa Spuntino, Public, London Fields and Red Hook. "I love cheese almost more than life itself."

The method

I bought a sample of cheeses across different styles and price points at Woolworths, Coles and Aldi. The panel tasted each cheese blind and scored it out of 20 for colour, smell, texture, appearance and, above all, taste. Scores were combined and rounded up to a value out 100.

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The results

Tarago River Cheese Company Shadows of Blue $6.67 per 100g

86/100

Cow's milk double-cream blue vein out of Gippsland. Aged for up to three months and wrapped in natural bee's wax. Sometimes described as "the brie eater's blue".

Foley: It's delicious. I really like it.

Williamson: Yeah, me too. It's super creamy. An entry-level blue.

Redhead: There's a lovely contrast between the blue and the brie elements.

Best with: A clean, crisp, slightly tart cider

Available: Coles

Meredith Dairy Plain Goat Cheese, $5.99 per 100g

84/100

Fresh, milky, snow white chevre (goat's cheese) from Meredith, Victoria.

Foley: Phwoar, yeah. I love that texture. So light.

Shearston: For goat's cheese, it's not too goaty. Some of them taste like you're licking the barnyard floor.

Best with: Great by itself but you could also throw it in a piping bag and do some cool stuff over beetroots and walnuts.

Available: Coles and Woolworths

Castello Creamy White, $3.99 per 100g

83/100

A soft white cow's milk with the slightest hint of funk from a Danish company more than a century old.

Williamson: It's almost like a really light washed-rind flavour.

Shearston: I love it.

Foley: Yeah, there's a really nice sourness to it.

Best with: Riesling on a verandah.

Available: Coles and Woolworths

James Foley and Bonnie Shearston on the cheese train at Gerard's Bar & Charcuterie, Brisbane.

James Foley and Bonnie Shearston on the cheese train at Gerard's Bar & Charcuterie, Brisbane. Photo: Lisa Maree Williams

Le Secret de Scey, $5.80 per 100g

75/100

More or less the poor cousin of comte, and made in the same region of France. A cow's milk semi-hard with a natural brine washed rind that's almost exactly the same as morbier cheese. When the Appellation d'Origine Controlee (AOC) decreed morbier must be made with raw milk only, this pasteurised sibling was born.

Redhead: It has a depth of flavour most of the other cheeses today don't.

Best with: Dry sherry and muscatels.

Available: Coles

Emporium Selection Cabra Goat's Milk Cheese, $2.66 per 100g

73/100

Looks very similar to manchego, but this Spanish cheese is made from goat's milk, not sheep's.

Williamson: The acidity is right and there's a nice level of saltiness.

Redhead: It's a good honest cheese. There's nothing outstanding about it but there's nothing bad either.

Best with: A cold can of easy-drinking ale.

Available: Aldi

Fromager d'Affinois, $6.90 per 100g

73/100

Cow's milk double-cream soft cheese from France that's so creamy it will practically turn into puddle if left out too long.

Shearston: It's not very challenging. It's creamy, it's soft, there's a bit of bite, but nothing that makes you say "wow". A good cheese if you're not that into cheese.

Redhead: There's no defects but there's nothing outstanding either. It's just a good, pleasant cheese.

Best with: A slice of nice, crusty sourdough.

Available: Coles

B.-d. Farm Paris Creek French Style Double Brie, $3.02 per 100g

70/100

Biodynamic and organic brie from South Australia. The wheel is almost as tall as it is wide.

Foley: There's great flavour close to the rind. Sourness. Acidity. But then you've got this chalky centre, which is quite flat.

Williamson: Yeah, I love that creamy part near the rind. There's lactic acid, but it's also quite sweet. Not keen on that centre at all.

Shearston: No. And that centre is the majority of the cheese.

Best with: Quince paste and crackers.

Available: Woolworths

A selection of the supermarket cheese tasted at Gerard's Bar & Charcuterie, Brisbane.

A selection of the supermarket cheese tasted at Gerard's Bar & Charcuterie, Brisbane. Photo: Lisa Maree Williams

Jindi Camembert, $3 per 100g

68/100

Oozy, buttery cow's milk cheese from Gippsland. Something of an Australian classic.

Williamson: I like it. Really nice and ripe. There's freshness and milk flavour to it.

Redhead: Out of all the white cheeses we've had, this one is the most developed in flavour.

Best with: A light Tassie pinot noir.

Available: Coles and Woolworths

Coles Triple Cream Brie, $2.50 per 100g

66/100

The supermarket's house-brand Australian-made cow's milk brie. Have to give Coles credit for displaying the optional "one star" health rating on the label. (That's one star out of a possible five, by the way.)

Shearston: It's very salty, but I like the rind on it. It has a nice crunch.

Redhead: There's a nice flavour here, but it's dominated by too much salt.

Best with: An unapologetically silly sparkling red on Christmas morning.

Available: Coles

What looks like a washed rind doesn't always taste like a washed rind.

What looks like a washed rind doesn't always taste like a washed rind. Photo: Lisa Maree Williams

Emporium Selection Australian Washed Rind, $3.19 per 100g

65/100

A molten French cheese you can smell from six feet away.

Williamson: That's f--king disappointing. It doesn't taste like washed rind! It's not strong enough.

Redhead: That's where Australia is at right now though. There's only a small percentage of people who want that smelly, rotten socks flavour with their cheese.

Williamson: If I had a blindfold on, I wouldn't pick that as a washed rind.

Redhead: You're absolutely right. There's no washed rind flavour. I suspect they may have used annatto, an orange dye, on the outside of the cheese to make it look like a washed rind.

Best with: Your second favourite beer and third favourite relative.

Available: Aldi

Tasmanian Heritage Triple Cream Brie, $3.99 per 100g

63/100

The oval-shaped Tassie cow's milk soft white is richer and more developed than its late '90s packaging suggests.

Foley: Look, it's fine. Bring it out at Christmas and no one's complaining, although I do find the rind is too thick.

Best with: Office Christmas parties and prosecco.

Available: Coles and Woolworths

Emporium Double Cream Camembert, $2.25 per 100g

58/100

Australian-made in Gippsland with bright, white rind. Not the softest camembert you'll ever encounter.

Foley: It's a crowd-pleasing cheese. It's not an offensive cheese.

Shearston: I just feel that if I ate it, I'd be like "why did I waste a wheel of calories on that?".

Williamson: Yeah, you certainly wouldn't bother trying to wine match with it.

Best with: Healthy slices of green apple and pear.

Available: Aldi

Emporium Selection English Blue Stilton, $2.98 per 100g

58/100

Made in England, this blue is lovely to look at with its mouldy, sexy rind. It's a shame it tastes so bland.

Shearston: The texture's quite nice and there's a good level of mould spread throughout it. It's not too punchy and would suit someone who's not a big blue cheese eater.

Williamson: That acidity is quite volatile too.

Best with: A sipper of port on Christmas Eve (not the nice tawny though).

Available: Aldi

King Island Dairy Phoques Cove Camembert, $6 per 100g

46/100

Named after a cove on King Island's north-west tip, this nutty Tasmanian camembert has an attractive white mould that looks swell on any plate.

Redhead: You can tell by the yellow-ish centre, this is made from the milk of a jersey cow.

Foley: It's pretty boring. I don't mind the soft texture, but there's not much else to it.

Best with: Inexpensive rosé and an aunt you haven't seen for a while.

Available: Coles and Woolworths.

Emporium Selection Aged Cheddar Cheese 20 Month, $1.60 per 100g

43/100

A pale yellow brick that holds its shape. Made from the milk of Australian cow's milk and aged for 20 months.

Williamson: It's sharper than most of the other cheddars.

Foley: It's not changing any lives though, is it?

Best with: A blended scotch whisky like Johnnie Walker Black.

Available: Aldi

Cracker Barrel Gold Release Cheddar, $3.30 per 100g

36/100

Deep yellow and aged for more than 40 months. These days, Cracker Barrel is made in Australia by Warrnambool Cheese and Butter (majority-owned by Saputo, a big Canadian dairy company).

Redhead: Out of all the cheddars, I personally think this is the best one.

Williamson: It's bloody sharp, I'll give it that.

Best with: A big oaky chardonnay.

Available: Coles and Woolworths

Woolworths Gold English Blue Stilton, $5.33 per 100g

38/100

Like all cheeses carrying the name Stilton must be, Woolworths' home-brand blue is made in England. This guy is very crumbly.

Williamson: What is this? The club cheddar of blues?

Redhead: I don't rate either of the Stiltons we've had today.

Shearston: That pasty texture. Ugh.

Best with: Celery sticks nicked from the dip platter.

Available: Woolworths

Grahame Redhead explains why club cheddar is cheating.

Grahame Redhead explains why club cheddar is cheating. Photo: Lisa Maree Williams

Mon Pere Brie, $4.80 per 100g

31/100

A classic double-cream French brie sold in wedges the size of door stoppers.

Shearston. I do not like this. That rind is overpowering and bitter.

Redhead: Whereas the other white cheeses are very milky, this has an earthy, unclean, farmyard flavour.

Best with: Neighbours you don't particularly care for.

Available: Coles and Woolworths

Miguel Maestre Murcia Wine Cured Goat Cheese, $7.33 per 100g

30/100

The Spanish-Australian celebrity chef has a range of cheese to call his own. They're all imported from Spain and this soft, light goat's cheese is washed in red wine during maturation.

Williamson: It smells like grape must.

Foley: You'd want this to be chalkier. It's too fatty.

Best with: A tinnie of Moritz lager.

Available: Woolworths

Coles Australian Vintage Cheddar – Strength 5, $1.60 per 100g

28/100

Australian-made "vintage-strength" cheddar native to family fridges across the country. Easy to slice.

Redhead: It's good for a kid's school lunch. That's about it.

Best with: Carrot sticks and sultanas.

Available: Coles

South Cape Vintage Club Cheddar, $4.29 per 100g

26/100

Club cheddar is made by putting cheddar through a mincing machine or blender. It's then pressed to come out square-looking, but has a super crumbly texture. South Cape's vintage version is aged for a minimum of 12 months.

Shearston: I'm not a fan of cheddars being slightly creamy like this is.

Foley: No, it's too rich. It needs to be sharper.

Best with: Two bottles of wine under your belt on Boxing Day.

Available: Coles and Woolworths

Margaret River Dairy Company Club Cheddar, $4.10 per 100g

21/100

A chunky punk of wax-sealed cheddar from Western Australian. Looks fancier than it tastes.

Redhead: It's got that soft, mealy texture you associate with club cheddar. A wax seal means the cheese hasn't had the chance to breathe.

Foley: Yeah, it's not much chop. I think we can all agree club cheddars are bad news.

Best with: Cabanossi and Ritz crackers.

Available: Woolworths

Mersey Valley Ploughmans Club Cheddar, $3.17 per 100g

11/100

Onions have been used to flavour the Tasmanian company's "ploughman's" club cheddar, which is meant to be eaten with pickles and ham.

Williamson: This one smells like that corner of your cupboard where an onion's gone wrong.

Shearston: It's horrible. Absolutely disgusting.

Best with: Your drunk uncle in the corner.

Available: Coles and Woolworths

A big thanks to Gerard's Bar & Charcuterie in Brisbane for letting me slice supermarket cheddar on the counter.