The SOMM Journal

April / May 2018

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 26 of 108

26 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } APRIL/MAY 2018 { wheying in } I'M MARRIED TO a California winemaker, but we drink a lot of Spanish wine. From Albariño, Verdejo, and Godello on the white side to lovely reds from Ribera del Duero and Priorat, these balanced wines suit our taste (it also warrants mentioning the price-to-quality ratio is off the charts). Spain's cheeses, like its wines, are finally gaining traction here. Cheese professionals have long admired them—for good rea - son—but consumers have been harder to sway. I can fill a class on French cheeses in a nanosecond, but many Americans still think Manchego is where Spanish cheese starts and ends. So here, as part of my ongoing missionary work, are nine Spanish cheeses to love—and not a Manchego among them. GOAT'S MILK Dama Sagrada From La Mancha, the same region Manchego hails from, this six-pound wheel is generally matured for a longer period of about six months. The extended aging yields a firm, brittle interior and an aroma like cajeta (cara - mel made from goat's milk). The finish is tar t, sweet, and salty, making you crave just one more bite. If it were a wine, one could call it quaffable. Garrotxa This traditional cheese from Catalonia had almost disappeared when some young back-to-the-land types revived the recipe in the early 1980s. A small wheel roughly three pounds in weight, it has a natural rind that feels like suede and a dense, smooth, semi-firm paste that melts on the tongue. The aroma is nutty with a hint of blue mold and the finish is sweet. Monte Enebro A dramatic addition to any cheese board, Monte Enebro resembles a large, flattened log; its handsome dimpled rind—part white-mold bloom, part ash— looks like birch-tree bark. The interior is dense and wonderfully creamy with herbaceous, piney aromas. Monte Enebro comes from the province of Avila, just west of Madrid. SHEEP'S MILK Idiazábal One of the few smoked cheeses I enjoy, Idiazábal is a specialty of the Basque region that's still made tradi- tionally with raw milk and animal rennet. It has a bold personality and can become piquant with age. Quality varies, so always taste before buying. The wheels I love have a balance of buttery sheep's milk, acidity, and salt with restrained smoke. Ombra A relatively-new cheese from a Catalan producer, Ombra resembles Manchego in size, shape, and style, but I find it sweeter and more buttery. With its natural rind, it lacks the clear polymer coating many producers apply to minimize mold growth and moisture loss. Matured for six to eight months, it develops aromas of bacon and aged red meat, as well as a concentrated flavor—just what I want with a big red wine. Roncal One of Spain's oldest cheeses, Roncal dates to at least the Middle Ages and became the first Spanish cheese to receive name protection in 1981. Made in the north - ern province of Navarra, it likely sustained many pilgrims en route to Santiago de Compostela in years past. Aged a minimum of four months, this firm and robust cheese becomes spicier with age. Its herbaceous aromas and lanolin scent, meanwhile, are typical of many sheep's milk cheeses. COW'S MILK Mahón Cow's milk cheeses are not Spain's strong suit, but Mahón is an excep- tion when well-aged. Raw-milk wheels that spend a few months in the cellar obtain a deep color and an intense caramel taste similar to aged Gouda that's lovely with Sherry, dry or sweet. MIXED MILK La Peral Far more approachable than Cabrales and Valdeón—Spain's better- known and more-potent blues—La Peral is moist, buttery, and eager to please. Created about 90 years ago by an Asturian chee - semaker whose descendants still make it today, it's a high-butterfat cheese composed of cow's milk enriched with sheep's cream. It has a natural rind, a bacon-like aroma, and a mellow yet intensely-savory flavor: Bring on the dessert wine! Not a Manchego Among Them INCREDIBLE SPANISH CHEESES EXIST BOLDLY OUTSIDE OF THE NORM by Janet Fletcher PHOTO BY MARIAMARMAR VIA THINKSTOCK Mahón cheese is named after the port of Mahón on the Spanish island of Menorca.

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The SOMM Journal - April / May 2018