Manchego cheese is, without doubt, the most well-known and celebrated Spanish cheese enjoyed all over Spain and exported to many places around the world. In 2021 alone over 35 million pounds of Manchego cheese were exported to cheese lovers all over the globe. It’s a fine, delicate cheese, made from sheep’s milk in the Spanish region of La Mancha. It is aged at least 60 days and for up to two years and get this very special and rich taste. Now this cheese is a D.O. (Denominación de Origen), the Spanish certificate that a product comes from a certain specific region (Denomination of Origin in English), something that Spanish producers are very proud of and take very seriously. Just like winemakers grow grapes from their particular grounds and regions, which certifies that the products and the taste origins from that exact area.
So the sheep must be of the Manchego breed (hence the name) of exactly that region in La Mancha. Any other old sheep from anywhere else, won’t do at all – no matter what good pedigree it might have. Cheesemakers have to follow a set of strict rules for the sheep, the milk, and the making of the cheese, in order to manufacture and sell this cheese as a Manchego cheese, with the quality and the price tag that comes with it. Now, of course many cheeses are made and sold in Spain being labelled as Manchego cheeses, but have never been anywhere near the La Mancha region – let alone seen a sheep. ‘Fake copies’ scream the real La Manca manufacturers, and make TV-commercials trying to keep their valuable seal of origin, asking the responsible consumer to check the
formal seal on every package of cheese. These other cheeses can still be excellent cheeses, with sufficient aging and fine taste – but they are just not the real deal. Manchego cheese can be anything from mild and slightly creamy to aged, firm, and mature
tasting. It’s all a matter of aging and storing, but mostly these cheeses are rich and full-bodied in taste. The cheese can be enjoyed in anyway you please, but is mostly eaten as is, cut in thick slices, and may be accompanied with a cracker or a piece of bread on the side. And don’t forget the wine, the combination of this fine cheese with a glass of good Spanish wine, will make you want to come back for more…