Manchego is named for the dry plateau region of La Mancha, south of Madrid, not far from Toledo. It is a vast, hot, dry region with few trees and temperatures up to 50 degrees celsius. It is here that the sheep graze on acorns, blackthorn, vetch, and wild grasses. Milking is still largely done by hand for Manchego. The shepherds work methodically through the herds and from each sheep they collect but a few litres of milk. In this milk lies the essence of their diet and ultimately the flavor profile of the very famous Manchego cheese.
To qualify for the DOP label, Manchego must meet the conformation aroma and flavour profile, but it also must bear the distinct zigzag markings along the sides and the flower design on the top and bottom. Originally these were accomplished by encircling the fresh round with braided esparto grass and placing it on hand-carved wooden boards to drain. Present day methods to achieve this traditional marking are with plastic moulds imprinted with the traditional pattern. moulds
The flavour of Manchego is somewhat dependant on age but all have the unmistakable richness reminiscent of Brazil nuts and caramel with a hint of lanolin, and a slightly salty finish. The older Manchego will reveal a peppery bite on the end. It is extremely versatile and is perfect on it’s own, or for use in culinary recipes. When melted, Manchego adds a nutty sweetness to the dish.
Manchego will absorb tannin, so it pairs well with a robust red or crisp white wine. In the summer heat, enjoy with a refreshing Sangria.