Ok, not really. Spanish Manchego is protected under the Designation of Origin (DO) classification system and in order for a cheese to win that precious title, it has to follow all sorts of rules. One of which requires the cheese to originate from the region of La Mancha, Spain. Nor do the producers of this cheese I’m writing about try to market their product as such. Say, by labeling it with tipo Manchego, the regional equivalency of adding on flavored, type, style, etc. in order to skirt around the problems one may face when duplicating a product classified under DO. However, the cheese pictured below is made with sheep’s milk, has a semi-firm texture, and is probably aged from 3-4 months. So, I guess, one could say it is somewhat similar to a young Manchego cheese if you toss out all of the other rules.
Last weekend, this little wedge of cheese with a sticker screaming Tierra del Fuego immediately caught my attention while I was walking up to counter of a local gourmet shop to order a platter of cold cuts. For years I have been wondering why it has been so hard to find sheep’s milk cheese on an island where sheep must be numbered in at least 6 figures. I wondered if my eyes were deceiving me. Sure enough, in small print, the labeled told me that this cheese comes from an estancia close to the center of the province. You never know, Francois Lurton produced a selection of wines labeled Tierra del Fuego that came out of Mendoza.
Queso Tradicional Estancia El Principio
Labeled as an organic product
Semi-curado: a semi-firm cheese that has been aged for 3-4 months
Ingredients: Pasteurized sheep’s milk, rennet, and sodium chloride
Notes: Somewhat similar to a young Manchego cheese. Very mild with a noticeable milky flavor. Quite creamy and finishes off with a slight tang. Oily external layer at room temperature.
Website: Estancia El Principio
Other cheeses: Smoked, garlic & parsley, black & white pepper
I’ll have to look into whether or not I can make a journey out there to visit their operation. I stumbled across an article that mentioned them producing soft or semi-soft cheese made with raw sheep’s milk. That would be interesting to try.