We’re lucky to have an abundance of artisan and traditional cheese-makers in Wales. There's also a host of specialist cheese shops, delis and farm shops that certainly know their Caerphilly from their Pearl Las – and you can sample the top of their truckles.
We asked experts at some of these cheese-tastic and tasty places to reveal their personal favourites. Oh, and if you fancy saying ‘caws’ – the Welsh word for cheese – it rhymes with mouse!
Blasus Deli, Carmarthen
Blasus – Welsh for ‘tasty’ – has been named one of the UK’s best independent food retailers time and time again since it opened eight years ago on King Street in Carmarthen. The owners love sourcing the best small-scale, artisan foods Western Europe has to offer and insist they will only sell produce they love eating (or drinking) themselves.
Owner Paul Robles’ favourite cheese:
'Hafod Cheddar sits proudly in our cheese counter alongside the best of Europe and the British Isles. It's made with raw milk at Bwlchwernen Fawr near Lampeter, from 75 organically farmed Ayrshire cattle. With a gloriously buttery and nutty flavour, it has a mellow, gentle acidity and a lovely light, open texture. This cheese shows off the green pastures of West Wales, and is a firm favourite with our customers. World class stuff!'
Blaenafon Cheddar Company, Blaenafon, Pontypool
In the heart of the world heritage town of Blaenafon, an icon of Wales’ industrial past, lies this specialist family shop where they make their own legendary Welsh cheese. The unique flavours reflect the landscape and history of the area. Blaenafon Cheddar owner and managing director, Susan Fiander Woodhouse picks her top three:
Pwll Mawr - Big Pit: 'It is matured in a coal mine 300ft below ground in stainless steel caskets. Dark, dank and humid, it’s left to do its own thing. The original Pwll Mawr and the oak smoked version were both awarded a Bronze medal at the International Cheese Awards 2017.'
Dragon's Breath: 'This is the only cheese in the world made with ‘real dragon’s breath’. A Great Taste Double Gold winner, this cheese blends fiery chilli with creamy Brains SA Welsh ale for a cheese fit for a legend.'
Christmas Pudding cheddar: 'This was once described as the most disgusting cheese in the world by a Great Taste Awards judge and yet it hasn’t stopped this cheese becoming one of our most famous and sought after. It’s sold to customers all over the world; people start booking in September.'
Fauvette, Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan
Specialising in handmade cheese as well as natural wines, olives and charcuterie, it’s easy to while away an afternoon people-watching with a tasting slate and a glass of wine at Fauvette’s. Run by lifelong friends Philippa Friedman and Jean-Marc Delys in Penarth, the deli was named Fauvette after a friendly brown and white cow on Jean-Marc’s childhood farm in the Loire Valley. Top Welsh cheese picks from Jean- Marc Delys include:
Perl Las - Caws Cenarth, Carmarthenshire: 'The handmade Perl Las is one of Fauvette’s best-selling blue cheeses. It has a strong taste with earthy notes that are tamed by a creamy texture.'
Thelma’s Organic Caerffili - Caws Cenarth, Carmarthenshire: 'This great cheese has a slightly crumbly texture and a delicate lemony palate. We love how the cheese ages, developing a moreish texture just under the rind. It will complement any great cheeseboard and pairs well with a good Welsh apple and ginger chutney.'
Pant Mawr Farmhouse Cheese, Farm Shop, Rosebush, Pembrokeshire
A family business at a small traditional Welsh hill farm in the foothills of the Preseli Mountains, Pant Mawr’s cheese is made from locally-produced milk. It combines the family’s self-taught skills and recipes to produce a range of mouth-watering, traditional cheese, on sale over the counter at their well-regarded farm shop. Top picks from owner Cynthia Jennings include:
Drewi-Sant (Smelly Saint): 'A soft, young, cow’s milk cheese, mildly tangy and fruity with a rich taste. Sprayed with mead, this is a unique cheese with a distinct ﬂavour.'
Caws Preseli : 'A soft, mould-ripened cow’s milk cheese . Glossy and straw coloured, this was a Gold Award Winner at the World Cheese Awards and Bronze winner at the British Cheese Awards.'
The Cheese Room Deli, Conwy
Open since 2016, The Cheese Room Deli is the brainchild of Ros and Stewart Jones, who wanted to add to the lively independent food sector in Conwy. As well as the best local Welsh cheese, the deli stocks complementary gins, wines and ales from local producers for a Welsh treat that’s twice as nice. Ros Jones’ pick of the Welsh cheese stocked at The Cheese Room Deli is:
Brefu Bach, made by Cosyn Cymru from Bethesda, whose sheep-milk cheese won the best cheese award at the British Cheese Awards.
The Marches Delicatessen, Abergavenny
Showcasing a selection of fine artisan foods from across Monmouthshire and the Marches region, The Marches Deli is a popular spot in the middle of this town, which is famous for its annual food festival. The Marches’ top picks are:
Wye Valley Cheese: 'This local cheese is made from the producer’s own flock of Poll Dorset and Friesland ewes which graze the grasslands of Lower Gockett Farm, Trelleck. It is matured for between 60-90 days and the results are outstanding, with this full flavoured hard cheese being one of our favourites.'
Mouldy Mabel: 'This pasteurised blue cheese is produced in Carmarthenshire from Jersey Cows and has all the hallmarks of a Roquefort with its delightfully creamy but rich strength packed into every mouthful. The Marches would happily say it is the best British Blue cheese we have tasted.'
Porter’s Delicatessen, Llangollen
The waterways of Llangollen are a magnet for international visitors. Porter’s Deli aims to provide both local and visiting shoppers with the finest ingredients, including a deliciously well-stocked Welsh cheese counter.
Porter’s owner Tracey Hughes chose her favourites:
Black Bomber: 'Probably the most famous Welsh cheese and our most popular, Black Bomber is the must-have take-home present from any trip to Wales. It’s rich and creamy with a strong, lasting taste.'
Celtic Promise -Saval: 'My personal favourite is one of the few Welsh cheeses made with unpasteurised milk. The rind is washed with cider, giving it a pungent aroma and lasting flavour.'