What’s that you say? Cheese counters and aisles intimidate you?

Totally understandable. It can be truly overwhelming to peer into a case lined with countless cheeses in various shapes, sizes, and colors—particularly if you grew up in a Blue Box Easy Mac and Kraft Singles family.

So where to begin when it comes to expanding your cheese repertoire? Which are mild and which are stinky? Which will melt well in a grilled cheese and which are better appreciated off a cheeseboard?

It’s a big world of cheese out there, but these are the six cheeses every food lover, cocktail-party-thrower, and cheese-eater should know:

1. Brie

Brie’s silky smooth buttery brilliance serves as a stepping-stone for anyone beginning to nurture their budding cheese connoisseur. Brie is a soft ripened, creamy cow’s milk cheese, which is easily recognized once molded into those familiar flat round disks. A fully ripe wheel of Brie has a fluffy, snowy white exterior with a glossy, plump, and velvety interior that tastes slightly fruity and mildly tangy with an earthen mushroom note.

2. Camembert

Camembert is known to be slightly more intense in character than the closely related Brie. They have a similar milky and sweet flavor profile, but Camembert entertains a deeper flavor and aroma. The bloomy rind intensifies the overall flavor profile of Camembert and offers an added dimension in texture, while the pearly interior is plump and kissed with slight hints of caramelized butter and sautéed mushrooms.

3. Edam

Edam is a Dutch cheese easily spotted by its signature red wax coating. It’s not only the bright exterior that catches our eye, but also its distinctive spherical shape, which occurs because the cheese firms quickly before the interior has fully settled. Edam also has a lower fat content and softer nuances than most cheeses and comes out smooth and supple with a clean aroma and boasts mellow tones of hazelnut.

4. Gouda

Gouda is distinct in character and diverse in style. It presents itself in so many different ways: young and mild, smoked and hearty, or aged into a state of sweet funkiness. In its youth, Gouda is mild, soft, and creamy and then evolves into a stronger, harder, crumblier cheese as it gracefully ages and develops a harmonious and unexpected balance of sweet and savory flavors.

5. Fontina

There are two types of cheese. There’s the cheese that you daintily nibble off a charcuterie board while saying things like, “Hmm, quite nutty.” And then there’s the cheese that you melt and gaze longingly at after you’ve had one of those days. Then there’s Fontina—a cheese that impressively thrives in both of these categories. On its own, Fontina has a delicate, nutty, almost honey-like flavor. A slight tang asserts itself, but there is no acidic or bitter aftertaste. And when melted, Fontina adopts notes reminiscent of a deeply golden slice of toast.

6. Mantoro

Mantoro is very similar to Spanish Manchego cheese, but is made from cow’s milk instead of the traditionally used sheep’s milk. The creamy golden color and combination of flavors present in Mantoro is a delicate balance of sweet and salty, and is generally tangy with a light nuttiness. The lasting sweetness combined with a distinct acidity that tingles as it melts on your tongue creates an invigorating eating experience.

If you’re looking to dive deeper into the world of cheese and upgrade your old reliables, Old Europe Cheese is a great starting point. Head to our Facebook page to learn more or contact us today if you have any questions for us here at Old Europe Cheese. We’d love to hear from you!