Forget Black Friday: it’s the beginning of November that brings out the lines, at least for Aldi shoppers. In recent years, Aldi has taken to selling an assortment of Advent calendars, including wine, beer, chocolate, and even toys. The wine and beer have been the big ticket items on Advent calendar day, but the cheese is no small player, especially for those who want cheese to pair with their wines.
In 2018, Aldi sold the Happy Farms Preferred Cheese Advent Calendar. In 2019, Aldi came back with a slightly different — and arguably more sophisticated — version of the cheese calendar.
We tried it.
The Emporium Selection Imported Cheese Advent Calendar is an ALDI Find, which means it’s only in stores for a short time. The cheese calendars aren’t as sought after as the wine or beer, but they don’t tend to last long — and Aldi doesn’t replenish the supply — so if you really want one you’d be advised to get there the morning they hit shelves.
The 2019 version of the Aldi cheese calendar was $14.99, which was $3 more than the 2018 cheese calendar.
The cheese comes in a fold-over box that has slots both on the front and the inside.
The cheese calendar comes with 24 individually packaged cheeses across 8 different varieties, or 3 of each cheese per box. We were struck by the fact that there is more variety to this cheese collection than the 2018 Happy Farms version.
Of course, the idea behind the Advent calendar is to open one slot a day over the 24 days of Advent. For the purposes of this piece, though, we went ahead and put all the cheeses through the paces together. It was a lot of cheese.
Here are our snap judgments on each. Fair warning: while we do like cheese, we’re not wine people, so we’re not as qualified to talk about pairings. But here is what we found just in tasting the cheeses on their own merits.
Aged cheddar: This cheese is really good. It’s a little dry, as aged cheddar usually is, but not too dry and crumbly. It’s my favorite of the bunch.
Red leicester: A solid, mild cheese with just a hint of bite.
Edam: This cheese is more mild even than the red leicester, and smoother, too. Maybe not as strong on taste as some of the others, but it still has a nice flavor.
Mild cheddar: The individual package calls it white cheddar. It’s a smoother cousin of the aged cheddar, and it’s just as good, if different.
Matured gouda: The individual package calls it simply gouda. Gouda is a unique cheese that you either like or you don’t, as the flavor is different than other cheeses. I liked it and thought it had a rich flavor.
Spicy gouda: The individual package called it hot and spicy. This hot and spicy gouda was 1) not hot, 2) not spicy, and 3) didn’t have nearly the strength of flavor as the matured gouda. It had an undertone of spice that you could taste, especially in the aftertaste, but no heat. I’m not a spicy foods type, but I thought this was a bit of a letdown.
Herbed gouda: The herbed gouda tastes … well, herby. (My daughter described it as tasting a bit like pizza.) Like the hot and spicy, it doesn’t have as much gouda flavor, although it was better received than the hot and spicy. We also couldn’t help but notice that it contains “natural flavors,” which are not all they’re cracked up to be.
Tomato and olive gouda: The individual package calls it tomato and olive. If gouda and olive oil had a baby, it might be this cheese, which is strong on the olive taste and somewhat weaker on the tomato. I liked it and thought it was more flavorful than the spicy or herbed gouda, although not everyone in my family felt the same way. Like the herbed gouda, it has natural flavors.
If you’re a cheese fan — or a wine and cheese fan — then the Aldi cheese calendar is an interesting novelty, to be sure. We liked some of the cheeses more than others, but we can’t deny that it’s a unique collection of cheeses, and a very different way to ring in the holiday season.