Cheese: Fiore Sardo DOP
Who: Various makers
Milk Type: sheep, raw
Rind: smoked & olive oil rubbed
Shape: ~6-9lb bulging rounds/drum
Flavor: not so smoky as appearance might lead you to believe; salty, sheepy, caramel
Fiore Sardo or Pecorino Sardo as it’s also known is one of the oldest-known cheeses, thought to possibly date back to the Bronze age, the fourth millennium BC when the framing societies, the Greeks and Minoans and other cultures dominated the Mediterranean.
While some factories now make Fiore Sardo, this tasting was a farmstead example, still made traditionally in huts, smoked over a fire, aged longer in the rafters and eventually cellared.
I’d like to imagine this cheese has changed little over the past 5000 years. Fiore Sardo possesses a very simple flavor profile, and one I admire the most: gamey sheepiness but not too bold, salted, a little earthy in a hot and dusty way… perhaps a little nutty. Like any good pecorino or parmigiano reggiano, it’s a dense and chewy bite that lingers and satisfies. You don’t hurry through a piece of Fiore Sardo, you let it sit there, break down, coat your mouth and savor the simplicity.
A note on the rind… in practice, I’m told the darker the rind, the more age on the cheese. Younger, more russet; older – blacker. Not certain the truth of that, what with the smoky rind being oiled and rubbed.
For wine- try matching smoke to smoke and pair with an Italian Nero D’Avola… or a Rosso from the volcanic soils of Mt. Etna. Northern Italian Nebbiolos, with their tobacco and leather notes should also mate well.