Washed-rind cheeses are firmer, lower-moisture cheeses that were made in highlands and up in the mountains. The cheeses needed to be able to keep well, as oftentimes travel down the mountains was hard for many months of the year and anyone wishing to sell them in the markets in the lowlands would have to wait till the spring.
The rind was washed to restrict bacteria growth, and as a result of the washing, the cheese would develop a hard rind. The washing isn’t always actual “washing”, it can be rubbing the moisture on, dunking the cheese in a liquid, or brushing it with a liquid. The liquid can be beer, brine, brandy, Calvados, cider, oil, water, whey or wine.
The rinds from all Washed-Rind Cheeses tend to be bitter and smelly.
This is often confused with Smear-Ripened Cheeses; with Smear-Ripened Cheeses, however, the goal is to encourage bacterial growth.
Aka “washed-crust cheeses.”