Were you able to appreciate the tasting notes of the Manchega sheep’s milk? Great! Let’s then continue with our professional tasting and concentrate on the visual aspects of the cheese – I know, you probably want to continue eating it but be patient, soon you’ll be able to savor it!
As part of our visual inspection we should look at the following:
- The rind. Cheeses can have different types of rind: wrinkled, white, wax, natural and washed rind. They can also have no rind at all, as it happens with fresh cheeses such as mozzarella. In the case of Manchego, its rind is inedible. Nevertheless, it’s important to pay attention to it, as its distinctive, characteristic zigzag pattern is one of the signs of authenticity. Originally this pattern was achieved using esparto grass molds. Nowadays modern molds are used for the same visual effect.
- Visual consistency. When cutting the cheese open does it appear soft, semi-soft, semi-firm or hard? Manchego is definitely a hard cheese. This comes from the aging process. As the longer the aging the harder the cheese, and Manchego cheeses can be aged from 60 days to up to 2 years, looking at the consistency will give you a good indication of how long your Manchego was aged.
- Mouthfeel. Isn’t this the part you were waiting for? Yes, now you have permission to sample the cheese you’ve been admiring. Hooray! Take a small piece and feel it in your mouth. Does it feel spongy, creamy, curdy, crumbly, grainy, crystallized, perhaps? Most people describe Manchego as smooth, creamy and buttery. How would you describe yours? Not sure? Take another bite. Not sure yet? Then take a bit more.
Can you see now why I love professional tastings so much? You don’t need to feel guilty about tucking into your favorite foods over and over again. It’s all part of the research. Being professional they call it.