A selection of interesting cheeses. Photograph: Foodfolio/Alamy
Which is the true king of cheeses?
From Reblochon to Kraft slices, our writers rhapsodise about their favourite cheeses. Join in with your own hymn of praise
This weekend's great British cheese festival crowned Kilree goat's cheese from the Knockdrinna Farmhouse Cheese company its supreme champion. Our food writers make their own supreme cheese choices.
Emmental is, at first sight, the Newbury of cheeses: it's solid, workmanlike, but very, very dull. Everybody knows it's there but few think they have any reason to visit. If emmental is famous for anything as a cheese, it's for the absence of cheese; it's the one with the holes in it. And that's about it. It's lightly flavoured, more than a little rubbery, and has nothing in the way of endnotes or grace.
But it is more like Newbury than this pale stab at a gag might suggest. For, at the risk of stretching the analogy until it snaps, just as the boring town in Berkshire is a place of light industry and mid-range technology firms - the sort of place where really hard unglamorous work gets done - so emmental is the workhorse of the cheese world. Because you cannot have a successful cheese fondue without it, and anybody who truly loves cheese will recognise immediately how important that is.
It is upon emmental's broad, solid and unassuming shoulders that the sexy supermodels of the cheese world – the gruyères, Comtés and Beaufort – stand. Any proper cheese fondue will use emmental as the bulk – perhaps three parts to one part of something bolder - and for that service it deserves our full recognition. Without it one of the greatest of cheese recipes every devised would be a complete failure. And that would be a tragedy.
Making the case for stilton as the king of cheeses is a bit like asking the Queen for proof of pedigree: no doubt she'd produce the relevant documents, but really, it's a teensy bit rude. Monarchy is born, not crowned by the mould-fearing masses. Unlike our own dear Queen, stilton was elevated to regal status through its merits – if we consider the qualities that make a cheese truly primus inter pares, then it has them in great crumbly chunks. (It also boasts a PDO, a distinction the House of Windsor has never managed to achieve.)
The king needs to stand apart from the common herd; and there's no danger of stilton ever melting into the background. With its grandiosely piquant flavour, rich creamy texture, and aristocratic blue-veined good looks, it's impossible to imagine the king of cheeses in a supporting role. You can cook with stilton, sure, just like you can make a fine sandwich with foie gras, but unlike lesser mortals, the king needs no such gaudy adornment.
Forget the aggressive charms of Roquefort, or that glorified pizza topping, Gorgonzola: a sweet, nutty stilton in the full fig of maturity is a cheese for the most refined of palates. God Save the King! (Now, pass me that knife.)