Cheese: Pecorino Ginepro DOP (djee-neh-proh)
Where: Emilia-Romagna, Italy
Milk Type: Sheep, raw
Texture: hard, flaking shards
Rind: natural, balsamic-soaked
Shape: ~6lb wheel
Flavor: subtly sheepy, nutty, woodsy in a dry brush, pine needles way.
Pecorino Ginepro is, simply put, an Italian sheep’s milk Pecorino that’s been rubbed in balsamic vinegar, oil and crushed juniper berries. After aging at four to five months, the result is earthy and lightly “pine forest”. Unlike some balsamic-soaked cheeses, the rind of Ginepro loses the sweetness of the grapes and the tang of the vinegar. Likewise, you do not particularly taste juniper berry (“ginepro” in Italian) either. But it does add a warmth and earthiness to what you might otherwise suspect is a good Spanish Manchego.
Photo by kimll at Flickr
The rind is very striking, a deep, dark reddish-brown. And do eat it… it’s a very hard cheese and chewy rind but you want those flavors from the wash that balance out what is a salty cheese with just a bit of sweetness. Eaten at room temperature, it’s a slightly oily cheese too, enhancing the flavors of the raw sheep’s milk.
Wine Pairing: Regulars to the blog know my preference for Piemonte and Northern Italian reds in general. This earthy, savory and only barely sweet cheese would do well with a Langhe Nebbiolo or a medium Barbera. Serve it with rustic and crusty bread and dry salumi, delicious!