1. To find great cheese, first find a great cheesemonger (one who sells cheese); make him an important person (a big cheese!) in your gastronomic world. You’re looking for someone whose passion for his craft is as palpable as a ripe Camembert. A good cheesemonger will guide your purchases, and help you find cheeses that exhibit the perfect combination of taste, texture, color, and aroma. They will answer your questions, help you educate your palate, and offer specific serving suggestions (including wine recommendations, if needed).
2. Keep an open mind when you approach the cheese counter. Instead of shopping from an inflexible list, shop for cheese as you would shop for fruit: What is ripe? What is in season? Cheeses do have seasons—and even vintages!
3. Taste before you buy. If a sliver isn’t offered, don’t be shy. Ask! Of course, this doesn’t apply to cheeses meant to be sold whole, such as Epoisses, or Pont L’Évêque.
4. Like many people and most wine, young cheeses generally have less depth, richness, complexity and flavor than more mature specimens.
5. Be wary of cheeses that are cracked. If the cheese has a cut side, make sure it looks fresh; the edges should not look dried out.