Can't quite think where to put this. As it all starts with milk, then I guess here is as good a place as any. Spurred by the discussion with Yoav, on another thread; and my own thoughts on what I would hope to achieve, let me pose ideal models to aunch a discussion:
I'm thinking of France, at the moment. an ideal declares a land, climate, permanent forages all driving breeds of cattle, and traditions - how the cattle are raised; how their milk is gathered; what kinds of cheeses are made from those milks, and how those cheeses are made.
For instance, think pastoral Normandy. Normande cattle, good grazers, converting to excellent milk. Do they specialize in hard cheeses? No. Why? Because they can get away with selling water - cheeses high in moisture content. Their climate allows for continual market sales of these cheeses, no prohibitive geographic or climactic constraints to prevent this specialization.
Now, I'm in the French Alps. Geography and climate make their confluence, to drive grazing on high-mountain meadow pasturage, with the prize being, say, Beaufort D'Alpage. It's a nice conspiracy. The high mountain grass, herbs, flowers come through. But it's costly, to sell long-aged, drier cheeses, and hard. Makers live lonely lives in high-meadow chalets, until the autumn, when cows return to the comfort of their winter quarters, and are served their fattening meals of stored forage, grain and the like. Here, reblochons and Mont D'Ors find their way to market.
Now - in the States, we have many makers doing "alpine" cheeses in decidedly pastoral, non-alpine locations. My own state, for instance, an eminently pastoral, if hilly-pastoral, place. A perfect Normandy transplant, if one wanted it to be so. Yet there are folks making great hard cheeses in the alpine "style."
What is terroir? Does one make a cheese driven by the land, per the above - speaking of the U.S. only, if one wants to make alpine cheeses, does one move to the Western States, find highlands, and make a go of it, or adapt traditions to make cheeses one wants, wherever located?
How important is land, geography, natural endowments in defining a cheese?