Affinage is a term (derived from the French, itself from the verb affiner meaning to refine) for the period of maturation during which the cheese receives any necessary treatment to improve its flavor in the cellar. Over the maturation period, the longer the cheese is aged, the more full-bodied it becomes.
The care given to the crust and the cheese storage conditions influence its taste, color and texture. There is a wide difference in taste, for example, between a cheese whose crust was left dry and another whose crust was moistened regularly.
A fresh cheese is the description of one when just manufactured, which is or could be aged in a maturing cellar. Cheese is called refined (affiné in French) when it has reached its optimum maturity at the end of the ripening period (which varies according to the cheese and time of the year).
The affineur is the operator of the cellar where the cheese is refined. The concept of an affineur collecting fresh cheese from various dairies, aging it, and marketing it under his own trademark is common in France, but only beginning to be adopted in the United States. One affineur that has become well-known in the United States is The Cellars at Jasper Hill in Greensboro, Vermont.