Milk Tasting 101
Mooo-ve Over, Wine—Make Mine Milk
Silky-smooth finish. Enchanting bouquet. Creamy notes. Ideal terroir. Refined and polished. Good legs. Think that’s a description from a wine tasting? Think again—it’s from a milk tasting!
Last summer, Clover Sonoma dairy capitalized on its wine country location by hosting a popup milk tasting room in San Francisco, complete with—what else—“so-mooo-liers” who guided people through milk flights and food pairings. Visitors swirled, sniffed and sipped nonfat, 2% and whole milk in stemware to discern tasting notes (milk fat content), nose (freshness) and flavor pairings (cereal, berries, churro crisps). They learned how Sonoma County—think rich soil, lush grass, cool sea air—provides the ideal terroir not only for great wine but for quality milk.
A few takeaways: Fat-free milk tastes sweeter than whole milk even though the sugar content is the same. As with wine, air is the enemy of milk, so keep the carton closed. Always put the milk carton back in the refrigerator right after using it, don’t leave it on the counter. And to keep it fresh, store milk in the coldest part of the refrigerator—and not in the door—to keep it at its optimal temperature of 35°F.
Not surprisingly, tasters preferred the creamier whole milk to the lower-fat alternatives. That preference matches a nationwide trend: Dairy industry statistics indicate that people are increasingly choosing full-fat dairy products—including yogurt, butter and milk—instead of low-fat ones. That makes sense, as consumers are demanding fuller-tasting and more-natural, less-processed foods. While a diet low in milk fat is still recommended by most health professionals, a growing number of new studies suggest links between full-fat dairy and lower rates of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
Let’s look at the similarities and differences between our milk choices. According to the Dairy Council of California, an 8-ounce glass of milk, whether fat free, 1%, 2% or whole, has the same amount of carbohydrates (12 grams), protein (8 grams) and sugar (12 grams for all categories except 2%, which has 13 grams). Not surprisingly, the higher the milk fats, the higher the calories, cholesterol and fat. Studies have examined whether the higher fats and calories in whole fat dairy mean people eat fewer sugary foods because they’re not as hungry, and whether dairy fats work directly on cells to improve the body’s ability to break down sugar from food. Some of these studies suggest that high-fat fermented dairy foods like cheese may be working to improve insulin response and lower diabetes risk.
But no matter which type of milk you choose, there’s nothing like a chocolate chip cookie with a cold glass of milk. And unlike wine, a luscious glass of milk doesn’t cost a whole lot of “mooo-lah.”