There is nothing quite like chilling out after a rough day with a nice glass of Italian wine and some tasty cheese.
And much like wine, cheese comes in so many different varieties. One of the greatest joys for any cheese-lover lies in experimenting with different cheeses to find new versions that they love. Finding an Italian wine that pairs well with the cheese just adds a little icing to an (admittedly cheesy) cake.
That brings us to the subject of today’s article.
Today, we’re going to introduce you to a type of Italian cheese that some of you may be unfamiliar with. Then, we’re going to help you to pair it with some Italian wines that create a perfect taste sensation!
So, what is this wonderful cheese?
It’s a cheese that comes from an unexpected source but it’s also a powerful cheese that we’re sure many of you will fall in love with.
What is Pecorino Romano Cheese?
When we think of most cheeses, we tend to assume they all come from cow or goat milk. After all, these are typically the most popular cheeses at most supermarket counters.
Pecorino Romano is different.
Because it’s made using sheep’s milk!
In fact, Pecorino Romano literally translates to “sheep’s cheese of Rome”.
The cheese is a crumbly, dense, and flaky food that comes with a pale yellow colouring. The milk used to make it can be pasteurised or unpasteurised, depending on the producer’s preferences. But the real standout quality of this cheese is its pure strength.
This is one of those cheeses that you will notice as soon as you step into the room.
It has an extremely strong aroma that tempts you in with notes of salt, spice, and a smoke scent that tells you you’re about to eat a much more complex cheese than most others.
The Origins of the Cheese
Pecorino traces its origins back to Lazio. However, the majority of the production of today’s versions of the cheese actually takes place in Sardinia. All told, there are six distinct varieties of Pecorino cheese, each of which has its own distinct flavours and texture. The standard Romano variant is often considered milder than some of the more niche versions, which are made in Tuscany.
This cheese has a long and storied history.
It’s been made since the days of the Roman empire, with documents from the time indicating that it was actually a staple part of the diets of most Roman legionnaires. That’s understandable given that cheese lasts so long, meaning it’s an ideal food to take on long marches and military encampments.
Today, the cheese has a reputation as one of the oldest in the country. In fact, tradition dictates that many families that can trace their lineages back to Roman times will eat some of this cheese along with fresh fava beans as part of a small pilgrimage to Roman Campagna, which is held on the 1st of May each year.
This is a Protected Cheese
As with so many of its food products, the Italians take a great deal of pride in the history and production of Pecorino Romano.
The six main versions of the cheese all hold Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status unto European Union law, making it illegal for non-approved manufacturers to claim that they can make the cheese, This PDO also ensures that the cheese is only made in the locations that have historically made it, which include Lazio, Sardinia, and a small Tuscan province named Grosseto.
This may confuse some of you who have eaten an American cheese named Romano.
The key difference here lies in the name. American producers can create a cheese called Romano but they can’t create a Pecorino Romano. What’s more, the American cheese is actually made using cow’s milk, which further separates it from the Italian original.
The Italian Wine Pairings
So, now that we know everything that we needed to know about Pecorino Romano and its origins, let’s get down to the important business of pairing some appropriate Italian wines with it.
The first thing to understand about this cheese is that it’s very complex. It has a powerful flavour that will easily cut through most light Italian white wines, meaning the majority pair poorly with the cheese.
As such, we recommend turning your focus towards some Italian red wines.
With that in mind, our first pairing choice is a powerful Chianti. Offering the complexity needed to match the cheese step for step, Chianti is a great pairing because it meshes well with the spicier notes in the cheese.
Sticking with red wines, a good Barolo also makes for a great pairing with this cheese. Again, this is because the wine has a level of complexity that matches the cheese, allowing for some interesting flavour combinations without the wine overpowering the cheese or vice-versa.
If you’re looking for something a little fruitier, try a Cabernet Sauvignon. While not as complex as Barolo or Chianti, this wine’s flavour profile makes it a very good match in terms of its ability to temper the smokier notes of Pecorino Romano.
Finally, if you absolutely need to have an Italian white wine pick, we’re going to go with Soave Classico. A dry and fresh white wine, Soave Classico is the least powerful of the selections we’ve offered here. However, it’s capable of cutting through some of the stronger flavours in the Pecorino Romano cheese, making for a good pairing.
The Final Word
When you buy Pecorino Romana, you buy one of the most ancient and traditional cheeses that Italy has. You also end up with a powerful cheese, made using sheep’s milk, that is sure to stand out because of its intense flavours and aromas.
Pairing this cheese with an appropriate wine is all about matching it in terms of richness and complexity, hence the recommendations we’ve made in this article. And of course, you can find several varieties of each of the wines recommended in the Xtrawine collection.
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