Expert guide to cheese: new-style cheeseboard

Best Christmas cheese board

Award-winning cheesemonger Hero Hirsh, manager of Paxton & Whitfield’s flagship central London shop, shares her tips to create the perfect Christmas cheese board

Looking for British cheeses and classic cheeses for your Christmas cheese board? Award-winning cheesemonger Hero Hirsh, manager of Paxton & Whitfield’s flagship central London shop, gives us her picks for two cheeseboards, one classic and one contemporary, to enjoy this Christmas. Hero covers all cheese varieties for the festive season, from hard cheese to soft cheese, blue cheese to Cheddar.

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Before you buy your cheese, read our expert guide to how to store cheese, how to cut cheese and how to buy the best cheese here.


The classic Christmas cheese board:

Mont D’Or (£14.50/500g, £19.50/800g)

(Unpasteurised, cow’s milk, traditional rennet)

This delicious soft cheese with a bloomy rind is made in the Jura Mountains that lie across the French/Swiss Alpine border. It’s an unusual cheese as it is made in the winter months from August through to March when weather conditions traditionally prevented farms from taking their milk to the local dairy for making Comte. The cheese is made in cloth-lined moulds and encircled by pieces of spruce bark that give the cheese a resinous flavour as it matures.

Why should this cheese be on your Christmas cheese board? Mont D’Or can be eaten on its own with a spoon and some homemade bread or can be warmed gently in the oven to make your own individual fondue to add to the cheese board. Here’s how to make the perfect fondue…

Mont D'Or Cheese for Christmas Cheese Board

Appleby’s Cheshire (£25.00/kg)

(Unpasteurised cow’s milk, vegetarian rennet)

This is an artisan cheese made in Shropshire using a traditional recipe, with milk from cows that have grazed on lush Cheshire/Shropshire pastures.

Why should this cheese be on your Christmas cheese board? Appleby’s Cheshire is the best example of a classic, historic, territorial cheese for your Christmas cheese board that has a refreshing acidic tang with a hint of salt.

Appleby's Cheshire Cheese for Christmas Cheese Board

Montgomery’s Cheddar (£27.00)

(Unpasteurised cow’s milk, traditional rennet)

A mature Cheddar that has a long and complex flavour, made by Jamie Montgomery in North Cadbury near Yeovil. Montgomery’s Cheddar is full flavoured and develops a depth and complexity throughout its slow maturation period of 12-18 months. The texture is drier than that of many other traditional Cheddars, with a distinct crumbly and crunchy bite.

Why should this cheese be on your Christmas cheese board? Montgomery’s Cheddar is a superb example of a West Country artisan Cheddar for your Christmas cheese board that has a flavour to die for!

Montgomery's Cheddar Cheese for Christmas Cheese Board

Stilton PDO* (£26.00/kg)

(Pasteurised, cows’ milk, traditional rennet)

Stilton is the classic cheese to enjoy at Christmas, and Paxton & Whitfield’s award-winning Stilton is handmade by Cropwell Bishop Creamery in Nottinghamshire. Paxton’s Stilton is matured for about 12 weeks before it gets sold from the shops. As it matures the cheese gains a creamy and mellow flavour, with a buttery richness that melts in the mouth.

Stilton in prime condition should be creamy yellow with an even spread of blue-green veins. The strength of the flavour should not be overpowering but have a pleasant, herby tang. It is at its best during the winter months because it is made with lush summer milk.

Why should this cheese be on your Christmas cheese board? Stilton is a must on a classic Christmas cheese board. If you only have Stilton once a year, make sure it’s at Christmas. Use any leftover crumbs to sprinkle onto our broccoli and blue cheese soup recipe.

Stilton Cheese for Christmas Cheese Board

Ossau Iraty PDO* (£46.00/kg)

(Pasteurised, sheep’s milk, traditional rennet)

This is a delicious hard sheep’s cheese from the Bearnais and Basque regions of France and is the only protected cheese from the Pyrenees (read our travel guide to the Pyrenees here). This cheese has a pinkish, light grey rind and the interior is compact, with a slightly elastic texture.

Why should this cheese be on your Christmas cheese board? Ossau Iraty has a sweet, nutty and milky flavour that is perfect for a festive cheeseboard.


A contemporary British cheese board for Christmas:

Barwheys Cheese (£29.00/kg)

(Unpasteurised, cow’s milk, traditional rennet)

This relatively new Scottish cheese was first produced in 2005 in Ayrshire, West Scotland (here’s where to stay if you’re visiting). Barwheys Dairy, where the cheese is made, uses milk from its own herd of pedigree Ayrshire cattle. The milk is very rich and gives the cheese a full bodied, smooth and complex flavour. The cheese has the slightest hint of a crumble and has subtle notes of spice, caramel and nuts.

Why should this cheese be on your Christmas cheese board? Barwheys cheese is a delicious alternative to the traditional Cheddar for a Christmas cheeseboard.

Barwheys Cheese for Christmas Cheese Board

Bix (£5.75/100g)

(Unpasteurised, cow’s milk, traditional rennet)

This new, luxurious, triple cream cheese is made at Nettlebed Creamery on Manor Farm, Nettlebed, Oxfordshire, by cheesemaker Rose Grimmonds. (Here’s where to stay if you’re visiting the creamery in Oxfordshire.)

When young, Bix has a rich ice cream like texture. As it matures, the typical mushroom aroma of the cheese comes through.

Why should this cheese be on your Christmas cheese board? Bix has a distinct creamy texture that makes it an interesting British cheese for Christmas.

Bix Cheese for Christmas Cheese Board

Cote Hill Blue (£30.00/kg)

(Unpasteurised, cow’s milk, vegetarian rennet)

Made in Lincolnshire, Cote Hill Blue is a creamy blue cheese with a buttery and satisfying flavour. Matured for over three months, it has a distinctive rind and a blue veined, soft, creamy texture that coats the mouth and leaves behind a buttery sweetness and a subtle kick.

Why should this cheese be on your Christmas cheese board? Cote Hill Blue is a delicious alternative blue cheese for the Christmas cheeseboard.

Cote Hill Blue Cheese for Christmas Cheese Board

Pavé Cobble (£9.75/200g)

(Thermised, sheep’s milk, vegetarian rennet)

A handmade fresh sheep’s milk cheese made by Whitelake Cheese in Somerset (here’s our guide to the area). With a mousse-like texture, this is a light and delicate lactic style ewe’s milk cheese.

This cheese is ashed and in the shape of a flat-topped pyramid. It has a creamy, slightly citrusy flavour and should show some surface ripening unless it is allowed to dry as it ages.

Why should this cheese be on your Christmas cheese board? Pavé Cobble won Supreme Champion at the British Cheese Awards 2017, so makes a great talking point for your Christmas cheese board.

Pave Cobble Cheese for Christmas Cheese Board

Rollright (£44.00/kg)

(Pasteurised, cow’s milk, traditional rennet)

This is a relatively new British artisan cheese, first being produced in March 2015. It is the creation of David Jowett, a young British cheesemaker who used to work for Paxton & Whitfield in its Stratford-upon-Avon store.

David makes this cheese at King Stone Dairy in Little Rollright, Oxfordshire. The milk used to make the cheese comes from nine different breeds of cow from King Stone Farm. Rollright has a peachy coloured rind that complements the pale, unctuous inner paste. It has a full flavour that is savoury and meaty with hints of sweet buttery notes.

Why should this cheese be on your Christmas cheese board? Rollright is wrapped in strips of French spruce bark, the same bark that is used to wrap Mont d’Or, so it looks great on a Christmas cheese board.

Rollright Cheese for Christmas Cheese Board

All cheeses listed are available from Paxton & Whitfield and other good cheesemongers/counters.

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* PDO – Protected Designation of Origin, for products that are produced, processed and prepared within a particular geographical area, and with features and characteristics that must be due to that area.