Manchego Cheese, a sheep’s milk from La Mancha, Spain, is a name-controlled cheese. The classic go-to cheese in Spain, it’s everywhere and comes in varying ages. A young Manchego, less than 3-months old, is soft, creamy and fairly mild and singular in flavor. Tastes OK, but it’s not a table cheese, and is used more in cooking. Manchego is also available in a “semi-curado”, aged between 4- and 7-months. The extra wait time produces more flavor and a broader taste spectrum. The picture is an example of semi-curado.
But for pairing with wine, find a “curado”, or aged version, usually at least 9 months. It becomes hard, slightly oily and a little more sheepy and robust — excellent with Spanish red wines. Although it’s more expensive, it really brings out the earthy elements in the wine and balances out the dark red fruit. Due to its oiliness and fat content, versatile aged Manchego is a great go-to cheese for most medium-bodied to giant red wines. It’s made in 6-7 pound wheels and it used to be crafted in wicker baskets, but now producers use molds that have a basket weave embedded in the sides. Look for Manchego with a natural rind, rather than one coated in food grade wax. Artequeso is a good brand, if available.
Pair this cheese with: