You have to have a cheeseboard at Christmas. It’s the law, along with turkey, sherry and sprouts, even if you don’t like them. But no one expects you to put much effort into it; days before Santa’s due, many of us reach for a supermarket selection. “Stilton?” we say, squinting at the packaging. “Check. Cheddar? Check. Something grey that might be brie? That’ll do.”

It doesn’t have to be this way. Across Britain, small producers are making cheeses that change from day to day and season to season, using milk that’s still warm from the udder. At Barwheys Dairy near the Firth of Clyde, Tricia Bey works wonders with just 35 pedigree Ayrshire cattle, plus a furry “pest control officer” called Tiger; at Fen Farm in Suffolk, herb-heavy pastures feed Jonny Crickmore’s 160 Montbéliardes, which he handpicked on a tour of the French Alps.

Some artisan cheesemakers are farmers who have been encouraged to branch out by the collapse in milk prices; others are foodies eager to be part of a British cuisine revival. Their quirky and fragrant creations are more widely available than ever, either from their own online shops or via specialist retailers such as Neal’s Yard Dairy.

“I like the idea of Burt’s Cheese,” says Adam Robery, who supplies London restaurants with everything from British cheddar to Italian blues. “Claire Burt is a small independent cheesemaker in Cheshire who makes half a dozen types of cheeses, such as the semi-soft Burt’s Blue and Drunken Burt, whose rind is washed in cider. They are all handmade so they change slightly from batch to batch. But they’re all made with skill and love.”

These cheeses are more expensive than Cathedral City, but infinitely more interesting. “Britain has a better selection of cheeses than the French now,” says Mark Hartstone, whose Dorset restaurant La Fosse is renowned for its cheeseboard. “Many of them beat the French in blind tastings.”

All of which means that, with a little work, you can build a British cheeseboard to tempt anyone. And it really is only a little. “I’d rather have three or four really nice, big pieces of cheese than nine or 10 little bits that will just dry out,” says restaurateur-turned-cheesemonger Rhuaridh Buchanan. Robery’s perfect number is five or six. Even Emmanuel Landré, who picks cheeses for the two Michelin-starred Le Gavroche, wouldn’t dream of replicating its 50-strong selection at home. “I’d go for four or five,” he says.

Within those three, four, five or six, however, you want to mix it up as much as possible. As Robery puts it, “you want a hard, a soft, a blue and a washed-rind. Ideally, there’ll be something made with cow’s cheese, something with sheep’s, and something with goat’s. That’s how you make a balanced cheeseboard.”

So let’s get balancing.