I don´t know how you feel, but Gustav and I often get confused around the term “washed rind cheese”.
There are long ripened, hard cheeses like *Gruyère* from Switzerland that are called washed rind cheese and then there are the little soft ones like *Livarot* from France that are also called washed rind cheese.

But are they really called by the same name or is it just the result of a category simplification?  The answer is, as so often – “ Yes .. and No”

Whereas bigger wheels of cheese, such as the above mentioned *Gruyère* or an *Appenzeller*, actually get washed in the old style sense of being treated with a wet brush, the smaller versions such as french *Livarot* or belgian *Herve* are hand smeared.
washed rindsmearedBoth have in common that they are brined, meaning that, no matter whether they are big or small, they are treated with a brine solution and are bacterial surface-ripened cheeses that therefore ripen from the outside to the inside.

Washed rind – smear ripened cheeses
Quick facts:

  • ripening is initiated by bacteria (rather than mold)
  • growth of bacteria is encouraged by washing/smearing the rind repeatedly with a brine solution
  • uses bacteria such as Brevibacterium Linens and yeasts such as Geotrichum Candidum to produce carotenoid pigments which give the rind its typical colors of dark orange and/or a reddish deep brown.
  • Depending on the type of cheese up to 10 different kinds of yeasts can be found. While B.Linens is intentionally put into the brine it is in fact not the dominating bacteria. Many other bacteria romping around the surface come from the surroundings, eg. the wooden shelves or some neighboring cheeses.
  • Hard, surface-ripened cheeses (Gruyère, Beaufort) are produced with the use of thermophilic starter cultures whereas soft surface-ripened cheeses are made with mesophilic cultures (Taleggio, Époisse) .
  • The aromas, especially of the small representatives, are pungent (due to sulfides, thiols, branched-chain acids) with barnyard and meaty flavor.
  • For the small smear ripened cheeses, besides salt and water, often cider, beer, wine or spirits are used for the brine solution.
*Kato Sidra* pasteurized cow´s milk and cider smeared from Mexico @lactography

For instance – *Époisse* (smeared with Marc de Bourgogne), *Herve* (beer smeared), *Stinking Bishop* (smeared with pear cider)

  • Ripening temperature is between 10-15°C at a high relative humidity which prevents the loss of moisture and the drying out of the surface.
  • Maturing takes 4-8 weeks for the little ones and 6months + for the big Smears.


Although *washed* sounds clean and *smear* sounds sticky, both representatives of big and small have a similarly sticky rind. The smaller the cheese, the more effect the brine has on the aroma and flavor profile of the cheese.

So, to be on the super safe-, and obviously cheese nerdy-, side the correct term that includes big and small sized brine-treated cheeses alike would be “bacterial surface-ripened cheese”.

Haha – right?

washed rind
STELVIO, a mountain pass so beautiful that Alfa Romeo named a car after it, a village and most importamt for us – a kind of cheese. Stelvio (or Stilfser) which gained PDO status in 2007 is still the only cheese from Alto Adige to carry this label. Our little friend is produced by Sennerei Burgeis -Semihard with an elastic bite and a flavorful, tangy aroma reminding of butter, cooked milk and toasted bread. 🐺🧀Gustav rates it 12/10 – says it makes a delicious all day snack os well as a great dinner melt. 🧀🐺🥂🍾
hand smeared
*Ami du Chambertin* by Fromagerie Gaugry, comes in a pasteurized and raw cow´s milk version. Marc de Bourgone brandy-washed with a thin, crusty rind and an elastic, smooth texture, it offers powerful burnt and tangy aromas Gustav rates *Ami du Chambertin* 13/10 and says he plans on stocking up his den so next time, when entering a barn, he will be able to completely blend into the atmosphere. 🐂🐾🐺(oh boy….😂)
Vacherin Mont d'Or
Vacherin Mont d’Or*. Raw or thermized cow´s milk builds up to this seasonal AOC delight from Switzerland and we are not exaggerating when saying that there are many ways in which you can enjoy Gruyère’s cold season sibling. 🥶😍 Gustav says no matter if you cut it, strip it, drip it, scoop it or dig in it *Vacherin Mont d’Or* is a true 13/10 cheese soldier.

Gustav says he knows how to solve the dilemma and suggests to stick to whatever pickles your mind first.


The Oxford Companion to Cheese, Oxford University Press
Fundamentals of Cheese Science, Springer Verlag
Nose Dive, Harold McGee, Penguin Press


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