I am a big fan of Spanish cheese and there will be a few reviews coming up of some favourites. The Spanish it seems are not huge fans of cheese and certainly don’t have the sort of varieties you would find in other European nations, which is strange given the number of sheep and cows found there. Few tourists seem to come back with stories of the amazing Spanish cheeses – paella yes, Rioja and Albarino yes but quesa not so much.
OK so to start I thought I would take a taste of a basic Spanish cheese; the sort of cheese people would buy as an everyday cheese in Spain. Quesa Iberico is a cheese from Central Spain, Valladolid specifically and is found all over the peninsula. It is also exported. The variety if found was Adarga de oro or Golden Shield.
The cheese is manufactured with a black non edible rind with the sort of herringbone pattern also found on Manchengo cheese…so beware – its isn’t Manchengo. It is ivory coloured and is slightly oily in appearance, which I find a bit off putting. While it is normal for this sort of cheese it does give it a slightly processed look. But the proof of the cheese is in the tasting…
The sheep is made from a blend of sheep, goat and cow milk, which gives Iberico its unique taste. It gets the acidity and rich nuttiness of the cow’s milk, the slight tang of the sheep’s milk and the tartness and spice of the goats’s milk. All this isn’t a melange of flavour, but each seems to emerge as you munch through it giving this cheese an unexpected complexity.
In Spain it is often eaten with membrillo, a quince paste which also adds a nice sweetness. I’d also pair it with a light chorizo and some almonds for a sort of mini tapas thing along with a lighter tempranillo.
Despite all the interesting things with this cheese I was not in love with it. The version I tasted was aged six months and felt a bit light, although there are 12 month versions, which may be a bit more weighty. Certainly not the worst cheese in the world and probably great on a sandwich but if I had to choose this or Manchengo I know which one I would prefer.