Though we have an unfailing love for many cheeses, one that holds a special place in our heart has got to be Manchego. Manchego is a name-protected sheeps’ milk cheese that is made in the La Mancha region of Spain (that is where the name protection comes in). The milk used to create this cheese actually comes from a very specific sheep—the Manchego Sheep.
In addition, this cheese has to be created in the La Mancha region of Spain, and has to meet a specific set of guidelines in order to legally be called “Manchego Cheese”. It is known for its distinctive basket weave pattern pressed onto the outer rind of the cheese. This modern day pattern is actually visually representative of a time when the cheese was originally made inside woven grass molds.
Manchego can be aged to several different flavor profiles:
Semi Curado – young Manchego, around 3 months aged which yields a fruity, grassy flavor with a slight tang
Curado – 6 month aged Manchego that has distinctive notes of caramel nuttiness with a slight hint of acidity
Viejo – Manchego that has been aged for a year begins to take on a crumbly texture, the color darkens and the flavor takes on a sweeter, stronger note
Manchego is a versatile cheese and is incredible on its own as a snacking cheese. Pair it with olives, tapenades, savory or fruit flavored jams, Marcona almonds, and fresh fruit.
It is best paired with wines that complement the light fruit/nut flavors of the cheese such as Tempranillo, Meritage, or even a simple Cabernet. If you’re not a fan of reds, crisp dry white such as an Albarino or a dry Chardonnay are sure to satisfy your palate.
For a new take on Manchego, try these delicious recipes that complement the flavors of this Spanish favorite!