Aged Manchego Viejo Sheep’s Cheese. Manchego cheese is made in the La Mancha region of Spain from the milk of sheep of the Manchega breed. It is aged for 1-2 years. It is firm with a sharper flavour the longer it is aged and therefore has a rich, deep pepperiness to it. Manchego Viejo is stronger, harder, and has more bite than its younger counterparts.
Manchego has a firm and compact consistency and a buttery texture and often contains small, unevenly distributed air pockets. The colour of the cheese varies from white to ivory-yellow, and the inedible rind from yellow to brownish-beige. However, this cheese has a distinctive flavour, well developed but not too strong. It is creamy with a slight piquancy and leaves an aftertaste that is characteristic of sheep’s milk.
This cheese has the designation queso manchego which is protected under Spain’s Denominación de Origen regulatory classification system, therefore the Manchego cheese has been granted Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status by the European Union.
Production of Manchego Viejo
The moulds in which the cheese is pressed are barrel-shaped. Traditionally, manchego cheese was made by pressing the curd in plaited esparto grass baskets, which left a distinctive zig-zag pattern (known as pleita) on the rind. Today, the same effect is achieved by the mould. The inside has a design in relief that imparts to the finished cheese an embossed pattern similar to that of woven esparto grass. In addition, the top and bottom surfaces of the cheese are impressed with the design of a head of wheat. During the maturation process, manchego cheese develops a natural rind.
Serving Manchego Cheese
It grates well, but can also be eaten on its own or on tapas. It is a firm cheese aged for 1-2 years. The flavour is sharp and it becomes crumbly in texture. It has a sweet, lingering taste. Manchego cheeses are best paired with a sherry.