When selecting a fontina cheese, a customer should pay attention to all the qualities of the cheese. The cheese should be visually examined to make sure that the color is even and that there is no mold. Handling the cheese can help to determine if it has matured evenly. If possible, the cheese should also be smelled and tasted before it is bought since the quality of fontina cheese is mostly based on its flavor.
A buyer should check the appearance of the cheese before purchasing it. Fontina cheese is usually light yellow or cream-colored in the center, with a more pronounced yellow tint towards the rind, which is usually a medium shade of orange-brown. There should not be any blue or green spots on the cheese, which would indicate that it has mold. Small holes in the cheese can be ignored as these commonly form as air bubbles become trapped in the fermenting cheese.
Texture is another important consideration when choosing a fontina cheese. At its softest, fontina should give when squeezed but should not be so soft that it falls apart. At its firmest, fontina will be stiff to the touch, though not usually as firm as a dry jack or parmesan. The texture should be similar throughout the cheese, with no soft or hard spots.
The odor of the cheese should also be taken into consideration when choosing a cheese. In general, young fontina cheese, which is still soft, has a mild smell but should not be too pungent. Older cheese may have a pronounced odor. Fontina cheese will ripen if it is left at room temperature, causing the odor to increase in intensity.
Finally, the most important factor in fontina cheese selection is the flavor of the cheese. Whenever possible, the cheese should be sampled prior to purchase, which is a common practice in cheese boutiques and even some modern grocery stores. Younger cheese is light and creamy, but aged fontina has a nuttier, more complex taste. By tasting the cheese first, the customer is able to make sure that they are purchasing a cheese they will enjoy. A person should choose a fontina cheese that will have the type of flavor that will best complement its desired use.