Cave-aged cheese is cheese that is aged or ripened within a real or human-made cave. In traditional cheesemaking, caves provided an environment with constant, cool temperatures, and high humidity that is perfect for aging cheeses. High humidity helps to keep the right amount of moisture in the cheese, while cool, consistent temperatures allow the cheese to ripen slowly and evenly. Caves also allow the cheesemaker to treat the cheese rinds more easily with mold or bacteria to create bloomy and washed-rind varieties.
Aging is a big part of how cheese is made. When cheese is left to ripen for months or years, it develops stronger flavor, richer texture, and more personality. During the cheese aging process, lactose in the cheese is converted to lactic acid, which provides a sharper, tangier flavor. Aging cheese also undergoes a chemical process called proteolysis, where long protein chains within the cheese break down to create the smoky, nutty, and meaty flavors in cheeses like cheddar, parmesan, or gouda. Proteolysis is also responsible for the creamy texture of soft cheeses like brie.