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Sensory Evaluation Workshop

Cheesemongers play a major role educating consumers about cheese and cheese quality. This one-day workshop will provide you with the fundamental tools to truly understand and define the sensory quality of cheese, offering comprehensive practical training to identify and describe the sensory descriptors of different cheese families, as well as resourceful information on cheese defects.

This intensive course, offered by cheese technologist and sensory scientist Dr. Montse Almena (former VIAC lead instructor), combines outstanding practical hands-on exercises with technical lectures, making it extremely useful and enjoyable while offering you the perfect tools to sell and select your cheeses.

Montse, an ACS Certified Cheese Professional and multiple times ACS Judge has over 20 years of experience teaching cheesemaking courses, sensory evaluation and food pairings workshops, and education in all the technical factors affecting the quality of cheese, from milk to market.

This course is also an unique opportunity to improve your food sensory skills and the understanding of cheese quality to everyone involved with cheese, from beginners and advanced cheesemakers, marketing and sales representatives to quality managers, technicians, chefs, and everyone else that would like to explore the fascinating world of cheese.

Matt Spiegler of turned the Barnyard Collective to this workshop.  

Here is his experience of the workshop in his own words...

The class started with a series of tastings of pastes (made from a ricotta base because of the neutral nature of fresh ricotta), mixed by the instructor, used to "Calibrate" your taste buds to certain levels of the following qualities: Sweet 1, Sweet 2, Bitter 1, Bitter 2, Sour 1, Sour 2, Salty 1, Salty 2 and Umami. Montse discussed the different taste parameters and how sensitivity to them varies wildly from one person to the next. Bitter in particular displays wide variation among tasters, and cultures, in terms of sensitivity.

This was followed by a session with dozens of small vials containing blind smell samples, which we had to sniff, and identify what was in the vial, and then write down what we thought it was. Aromas included all of the classic cheese aromas (eg everything from caramel to hazelnuts to toasted butter to cooked cauliflower to wet hay to pineapple) as well as some less pleasant ones (e.g. manure,ammonia,mildew). Afterwards we worked our way down the list with the instructor telling us what the aromas actually were, and we scored ourselves and compared our accuracy.

We were then given lessons in the evaluation of a cheese according 9 parameters: External Appearance, External Aroma, Aroma (Paste Odor), Visual Evaluation, Hand Evaluation, Flavor, Texture, Taste, Trigeminal Stimulations (Pungent, Astringent) and Aftertaste.

Finally, the day ended with a sample judging of cheeses according to the American Cheese Society methodology, in which two judges pair up, one taking on the Technical Judge role and the other the Aesthetic Judge role. It's kind of a good cop/bad cop relationship actually, with the Technical Judge given jurisdiction over evaluating the negative traits of the cheeses (Off Aromas, Flavors, Defects in Texture, Body and Rind), while the Aesthetic Judge is in charge of the positive evaluations (the same categories, but whereas a Technical Judge might find an "unpleasantly earthy aroma", the Aesthetic would judge it "pleasantly fruity". The scores are then added together (after the Technical Judge has subtracted points for defects). We staged a mock ACS judging session, sampling cheeses and scoring them, and then comparing against the other cheeses within the category to determine a winner.

During all this Montse discussed the many challenges of sensory evaluation and ways to train your senses to be more sensitive to the subtle variations one can encounter (eg is that "yogurt" or "buttermilk" you're smelling? Would that be "fried leeks" or "fried garlic"?). 



Earlier Event: August 27
Alpine Style Cheese and Wine Workshop
Later Event: September 24
Town Hall: Gruyere AOP