Region: La Mancha, Spain
Manchego is probably Spain’s most famous cheese. Produced in the La Mancha region, this cheese is made from the whole milk of Manchega sheep. The rich, semi-firm product is aged in natural caves for a minimum of 3 months, which imparts a zest and exuberent flavour. The abundance of wild herbs on Central Spain’s grazing lands gives Manchego a special taste and aroma. Underneath the inedible rind, the interior is ivory to golden coloured with few small holes.
Manchego can be recognized by the zigzag pattern etched into its rind. (This traditional embossed pattern comes from the time when the cheese was wrapped in sheets of woven esparto grass.) The taste depends on the maturity: mild, subtle, and fresh; or strong and full-bodied with a tangy farmhouse flavour.
The taste is very distinctive, slightly salty but not too strong. It is creamy with a slight piquancy, and with the characteristic aftertaste of sheep’s milk. Just like wine, Serrano ham and olive oil, Manchego cheese is protected by its Denominación de Origen. This controls its production, ensures the exclusive use of milk only from the Manchega sheep, and dictates an aging period (in natural caves) of a minimum of two months.
Manchego is available in three different states of maturity: Fresh (fresco), 3-6 months old (curado), and matured for a year (viejo) or more. At Herma’s we are featuring a Manchego that has aged for 18 months, giving it a sharper, nuttier flavor and a firmer, more brittle texture than its younger namesake. Taste Manchego for the first time and you will be surprised at how long the wonderful taste lingers on your palate. We especially love this cheese served with Rioja wine and fresh fruit.