Good cheese is as elegant and as tetchy a subject as good wine or chocolate, and fine cheeses have always been synonymous with good taste. Perhaps it’s the fact some of the finest cheese pairs so well with wine, or perhaps it’s the rich and storied history of cheesemaking that lends a sort of luxuriousness to the famous food. While processed ‘cheese’ is easily bought at most grocery stores and is usually quite affordable, many purists barely consider this the same food group as the traditional, handmade cheese that requires so much care and attention to make that it can command exorbitant prices.
The first unequivocal evidence of cheese making dates all the way back to 5,500 B.C. in Kujawy, Poland. Earlier pieces of pottery filled with holes have been found near Switzerland’s Lake Neuchatel, dating back to 6,000 B.C., and are believed to be from earlier cheese strainers but their exact use is unclear. By the time Rome became the dominant civilization in the world, cheese was an everyday food. After the fall of Rome, cheese making had its renaissance throughout Europe – Britain. France and Italy all helped shaped the art of cheesemaking.
Today, the British Cheese Board estimates there are as many as 700 distinct local cheeses; France has over 400 famous cheeses and so does Italy. Nowhere in the world is cheese so revered than in France. The country is renowned for famous cheeses like Camembert, which comes from Normandy, and Brie from the historic Brie region of France. There’s even a famous French saying that posits there’s a different French cheese for every day of the year.
The first factory for the industrial production of cheese was built in 1815 in Switzerland; from then on the mass production of cheese became commonplace. It is in the last 30 years, however, that the resurrection of artisanal gourmet cheese making has occurred – and with it, expensive, gourmet cheeses are a marketplace reality. Below, we’ve taken a look at 9 such exorbitantly expensive cheeses in the world today.
9. Beaufort D’ete: $35
Made in the French Alps, this luxurious cheese is often the preferred choice for fondue lovers because of how well it melts. The cheese is paired perfectly with wine and salmon, and it’s known for its creamy texture and slight pungent smell. Its popularity and production method (aged in a cool mountain cellar for 6-12 months) means that it has a price tag that’s higher than similar Gruyere-style cheeses. It typically sells for $35 per pound – pricey for sure, but not ludicrously expensive.
8. Gorau Glas: $40
When this blue-veined artisan cheese arrived on the scene it took foodies by storm. Hailing from a small Welsh farm, Gorau Glas was originally sold for 27 pounds per kilogram, but now the cheese regularly sells for about $40 per pound. The cheese was invented on a farm in Anglesey, Wales by Margaret Davies. She got involved in cheese making after she attended a course her son was originally supposed to attend, so it’s serendipitous that this gourmet cheese exists at all.
7. Extra Old Bitto: $150
With a value of about $150 per pound this Italian cheese was bought by a Hong Kong Importer in the hopes of selling the aged delicacy in China, despite the fact that the market for cheese in Asia is nowhere near as strong as it is in Europe and North America. The 20 kg block of cheese that was bought was much older than the typical age of a Bitto cheese; it was produced in 1997, but typically Bitto is only sold aged at most for ten years.
6. Wyke Farms Vintage Cheddar: $190
By adding white truffles and gold leaf to this classic cheese the price skyrockets. A pound of this luxuriously laced cheese costs a staggering $190. Wyke Farms has a long history of making world-renowned cheddar. The cheese maker has won innumerable awards, and these cheese experts clearly saw the potential off adding a little more class to an English staple.
5. Clawson Stilton Gold: $450
It’s not the cheese itself that makes this entry so pricey: Rather, it’s the fact that this white, British Stilton is injected with real gold liqueur and edible gold leaf. With all that’s infused in the cheese, one pound costs over $450. Long Clawson Dairy created the cheese as a luxurious appetizer for the Christmas season, and it was reported that oil wealthy sheiks and famous pop stars were interested in the pricey, gourmet cheese.
4. Elk House Cheese: $455
So few farmers produce cheese from moose milk, so the ones that do can afford to charge a price reflective of the cheese’s rarity. In Bjurholm, Sweden you will find the Elk House. Here, farmers Christer and Ulla Johansson have three milk-producing moose. The moose produce just 300 kg of milk a year, and the price per pound for moose milk cheese can be as high as $455. This unique cheese is served up at the Algen Hus restaurant in Sweden.
3. Pule Cheese: $600
If something is rare and there’s a high demand for the product then you can be certain it’ll be expensive. Such is the case when it comes to Pule cheese. Made from the milk of Balkan donkeys, this Serbian cheese can fetch a price as high as $600 USD per pound. The small amount of donkeys capable of producing the milk needed for the cheese, and the difficulty in milking them, plays a huge role it in sky high price of this smoked cheese. The donkeys come from the Zasavica donkey reserve and there are only 100 endangered female Balkan donkeys that are milked; 25 liters of milk are needed to make just 1 kg of this cheese.
2. Caciocavallo Podolico: $650
With an average price of about $650 per pound, this Italian cheese is famous for not only its taste, but its high price tag. Even though the name of the cheese means, literally, horse cheese, horses have nothing to do with the production of this cheese. The cheese is made from the milk of an extremely rare breed of cow called the Podolica in the Campania region of southern Italy. In the summer months herds of the cows are moved up to the mountains to feast on strawberries, blueberries and cherries; this diet gives the cheese an elegant, fruity flavor.
1. Frome Cheese Platter: $3,300
With all the accoutrements and the serving trays, this luxurious collection of cheese is worth more than $3,300 USD. The cheese platter was displayed at the Frome Cheese and Agricultural Show in Somerset, England. Of course, one of the world’s most expensive and rarest cheeses (Pule) was included in the platter alongside the Wyke Farms Vintage Cheddar infused with gold leaf and French truffles. The silver cheese tray and fancy wooden cheese board, however, account for $1,200 USD of the total value of the assemblage.