A mountain cheese with DOP (AOP) protection from the areas of Veneto and Trentino Alto Adige. The name comes from the town of the same name which is the main area and the origin of the cheese. A firm cheese, almost the same texture as Parmigiano Reggiano, but only almost. When matured, it develops fine crystals that crunch between your teeth. Straw colored, firm and very compact texture. Some say it has small holes, never come across that. Matured from six months up to two years. The longer the ripening, the more developed flavor. Round and nice but very intense flavor that sits for a long time in the mouth. Maybe a hint of sharpness, only fascinating though, not anything that bites. You may feel a little salty sting. This is a cheese for a slice of good bread. Excellent for cooking as well.
To drink: Mature red wine, preferably Italian and Piedmont. A classy and well matured white will also do the trick.
A mountain cheese this as well, from the Brembana Valley Bergamo province up along the Swiss border. On September 21 the locals celebrate the cows coming down from the mountain. In many ways a traditional mountain ost. Firm and compact paste with oval holes. Varies in color, towards the white side in the winter time when the cows are fed hay, and more yellow in the summer when they graze on healthy and lush mountain grass. A raw and washed rind cow’s milk cheese with minimum maturity of 20 days. It is in my opinion not very long, so look for more matured ones. The taste is very neutral and fresh, but naturally becomes more intense with more time in the cellars.
To drink: Branzi prefers a little red wine in the glass, and then it’s possible to start with a Barbera and then continue on the Piedmontese quality ladder as the cheese becomes more and more mature.
This is Val d’Aosta’s most famous cheese. Unpasteurized cow’s milk cheese. Must be characterized as semi-firm. Have DOP (AOP) protection. This is a farmstead cheese, artisanal or industrial. It is important to be on the alert so you get one of the two former. Industrially manufactured Fontina «is just another cheese». Pale yellow paste with a nice piercing of rather small holes. Comes as wheels as most mountain cheeses do. Being widely used for cheese fondue. A farmstead or artisanal cheese have a slightly sharp scent but with a taste of nuts as is the case for many mountain cheeses. The cheese is made twice a day, so one from morning milk and one from evening milk.
To drink: If you use for a cheese fondue, it’s only white wine that applies. Otherwise you can drink both Pinot Noir and Barbera; more on the elegant side than the complex side. If you are in the area, you drink local wine, of course.
Renowned Italian blue cheese this. Made from cow’s milk and usually pasteurized. The name derives from the town of the same name, but whether it has ever been made there is disputed. Probably just matured and sold at the marked. This is Northern Italy; mostly Piedmont and Lombardy. DOP (AOP) protected. Traditional blue cheese, but the blue mold used is mainly Penicillium glaucum although Penicillium roqueforti can also be used. Gorgonzola comes in two varieties; Dolce which is soft, creamy, mild and sweet in flavor. Piccante or Originale and sometimes Montagna. The cheese becomes firmer the longer it is matured. And the flavor becomes markedly sharper.
To drink: Not necessarily sweet as with many other blue cheeses, so I thought an Amarone may be just great. If you prefer something on the sweet side, I recommend a Recioto della Valpolicella (red) or di Soave (white).
Blue Cheese from the Val di Susa in Piedmont along the French border. Produced only during the summer months when the cows and goats graze in the mountains. Can be made from cow’s milk or goat’s milk. A blue cheese without typical blue veins. More a faint blue fringing in an otherwise rather anemic Relatively firm cheese,cheese when it comes to color. Fairly dry texture but with a creamy expression in the mouth. Sharp in flavor and definitely a cheese for the connoisseur. A cheese that is best enjoyed in small quantities. Dry salted, making sure it is not as salty as many other blue cheeses. A relatively rare cheese.
To drink: A port will be just fine, Recioto della Valpolicella as well, and Amarone if you want drier but equally powerful wine.
Parmigiano Reggiano is a hard, crumbly cheese from unpasteurized skimmed milk from cows that are fed on grass and hay. Can only be produced in the area around Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena and Bologna (all in Emilia-Romagna), and Mantova in Lombardy. Also known as Parmesan colloquially. Parmigiano Reggiano DOP has protection from the EU (AOP). All cheeses are checked after one year of maturation, and those that are approved get a stamp. The others are sold as second class. The most common age is two years, but have personally tasted six years old. Intense sweet and nutty flavor. Parmigiano Reggiano is also much used for cooking. Grated. Parmigiano Reggiano is lactose free. Mainstream i Italy, fairly exotic in the rest of the world.
To drink: I would prefer an Amarone. The more mature cheese the more mature Amarone to speak. But white will also do.
A cheese made from skimmed cow’s milk. The milk was separated and the cream was used to churn butter. So Salva Cremasco is a cheese made from excess milk. Hence the name Salvatore coming of salvare (to save in Italian). they saved the surplus skimmed milk and made as a cheese from it. A DOP (AOP) cheese. hails from the area just east of Milan in southern Lombardy. Unpasteurized, but there is a pasteurized version too. Matured at least for 30 days, but can be matured up to a year. Compact, relatively dry, ivory colored paste, almost without holes. A certain sharpness as young turning into a more rich and full flavor with age. Try a ripe pear with it. I was also recommended a chutney made of green tomatoes.
To drink: Dry, fruity white wine from northern Italy. For the beer hounds; Try a Lager.
From northern Italy, Lombardy to be more exact, but can also come from a wider area such as Piedmont and Veneto. From cow’s milk. The cheese is off-white in color with a soft rind that looks pink dirty white with mildew stains if it has been stored for a while. Cut away these. The rest can certainly be eaten. A pure milk flavor, outspoken saltiness and with age also a nice touch of acidity. Available in both pasteurized and unpasteurized, but the unpasteurized, as superior as it is, is very rare.
To drink: Barolo or Barbaresco. This is the an Italian cheese, but if you want to drink French, a red wine from the southern Rhône fits well.
Torta di Peghera
Semi-soft unpasteurized or termized washed rind cheese from cow’s milk that made on small farms in Val Taleggio, Lombardy. Pale golden thin rind with hints of orange color. Touch of barnyard aroma. Rich flavor, but not pungent. Long lasting in the mouth. Nice acidity. Serve with onion marmalade. Use melted on polenta, but also good as is with bread. Quite oily cheese with its 54% fat in dry matter. Matured at least 45 days. Cylindrical in shape and weighs 2.4 kg.
To drink: White wines from the Voignier or Arneis grapes. Light red wines from Lombardy.
Robiola di Roccaverano
An old cheese this Italian goat cheese. For that’s what it is, although it also comes as a blend of cow, sheep and goat. Known as early as 300 years BC. As a curiosity it can be mentioned that Pliny who died in 79 AD, appreciated this cheese. From the Langhe area of Piedmont. Have DOP (AOP) protection, so have the blends so it is important to read the label. 2 latti, 3 latti etc. I prefer the pure goat cheese, milk from goats that are fed only on fresh grass. Pasteurized and skimmed goat’s milk, so it’s here only because it is such a delight. In season from February/March to October. Handcrafted on small farms while the blended ones are made at large dairies. Great goat flavor with pronounced acidity which is rounded off by ripening and the flavor becomes more barnyard and «old goat». Soft ivory colored rind, that reddens with age. Often eaten with some extra virgin olive oil and fresh figs. Also good with walnut and raisin bread.
To drink: A dry, fresh, white wine from the Langhe area. A lager for the beer freaks.
Hard sheep’s milk cheese. Originally from Sardinia. Available in four varieties. From Sardinia comes Pecorino Sardo. The most famous is Pecorino Romano, which is largely produced in Sardinia, but also in Lazio and Tuscan Grosseto. Then there is Pecorino Toscano from Tuscany, and finally Pecorino Siciliano from Sicily. All are PDO cheeses. Three maturity levels: Fresco, semi-stagionato and stagionato as the most mature and hardest. In addition, countless blends of herbs and spices. A weird variety is with living fly larvae in the cheese. It can be found on Sardinia, not allowed to sell to the public though. Hard to find unpasteurized, if at all possible, but there are many pasteurized varieties on the market.
To drink: Mature reds from Tuscany.
Bitto, or Formaggio Valli del Bitto cheese is from the Valtelline Valley in Lombardy. Taking its name from the River Bitto which flows through the valley. Have DOP (AOP) protection. Made only in summer when the cattle graze in the mountains. The main ingredient is raw cow’s milk but 10 to 20% raw goat’s milk should be added. Important that Valli del Bitto is pinter on the rind. Stores incredibly well, up to 10 years. Winter cheese is called Valtellina Casera. Relatively rare.
To drink: Mature Barolos.
Testun Foglia di Castagno
A Piedmontese cheese made of goat’s and cow’s milk. Probably most cow’s milk. Wrapped in chestnut leaves and matured in oak barrels for three years. This means that it has a wonderful, sweet and nutty flavor. It becomes slightly bluish without it being prominent. It is defined as a firm but it is creamy firm, and it melts on the tongue. Just to enjoy. Can be difficult to find.
To drink: A good, ripe Piemontese. I would prefer Barolo from the top shelf, but a good Barbaresco will of course also be amazing.