Andalucía is a region of Spain that has two coastlines on the Mediterranean Sea and also the Atlantic Ocean. There are four Costas, the Costa de la Luz, the Costa del Sol, the Costa Tropical and the Costa Almeria. Andalucía also has two mountain ranges the Sierra Morena as well as the Baetic System. Its name comes from the Arabic word Al-Andalus, is the home of Flamenco and there are eight provinces, Almería, Cádiz, Córdoba, Granada, Huelva, Jaén, Málaga and finally Seville, its capital. It has an amazing history and of course it has amazing cheese...
With all of the Eat Play Stay Spains Spanish Cheeseboards if there is a cheese with a Denominación de Origen Protegida (D.O.P) then it is going to be on that board however there are no D.O.P cheeses from Andalucía. There are however eight stunning individual provinces, each with their own character, history and you guessed it cheese and this cheeseboard has a cheese from each. Cows milk cheese is predominantly in the North of Spain and sheep and goats cheese in the south, so an Andalucía Cheeseboard is a fantastic way to experience sheep and goats cheese and brings a taste sensation to you and your guests. So lets begin...
The first cheese is Alhama de Granada, named after the province it is produced in. This cheese is made from goats milk and is semi-hard in texture. Now this particular cheese is not to everyones taste simply because it is very strong in aroma and also flavour however when paired with the right wine it is one that could possibly become a firm favourite for your board. Now Andalucía may not yet have any D.O.P cheese but it has plenty of D.O.P wine and for me Alhama de Granada needs a crisp slightly acidic wine and pairs so well with a glass of Bodegas Al Zagals Gold Medal winner in the Catavinum World Wine & Spirits Competition 2016, Rey Zagal Sauvignon Blanc D.O.P. 2015 Vintage, when paired with this wine, at Eat Play Stay Spain we are sure you will fall in love with Queso Alhama de Granada and without doubt you will most definitely fall in love with Rey Zagal Sauvignon Blanc D.O.P. 2015 Vintage. In the province of Granada there is also a village called Alhama de Granada, it is situated north of the imposing cluster of mountains that make up the Sierras de Tejeda y Almijara and is as one would expect rich in history. If you picture it sitting above a gorge surrounded by olive groves and almond orchards full of blossoms in the springtime you can imagine just how beautiful this off the beaten track village is. It got its name from another Arabic word al-hammam, translated to thermal baths. During the reconquest Christians paid fortunes for the healing thermal waters of Alhama. The thermal waters are at a temperature of around 47C and are rich in bicarbonates, magnesium, calcium and sulphates and are as popular today as they were over a millienia ago.
Ready for the next cheese on your Andalucía cheesboard? This next one is a must for any Andalucía Cheeseboard and it is Queso de la Sierra de Grazalema. This cheese is from Cádiz and can either be made of unpasteurised sheeps milk or can be a combination of sheep and and goat milk. It has a sticky orange rind and is a seasonal cheese, produced in the months between the seasons of winter and ending in the early summertime. In comparison to its orange rind the cheese is yellow inside with small holes. It is eaten as a young cheese only being matured for about 6 weeks. This cheese is so moreish you will need to make sure you have a healthy serving on the board as it will be popular. On the palate it is quite oily, is slightly spicy and also salty and with a chunk of fresh artisan bread you need no more except plenty of it. Queso de la Sierra de Grazalema is perfect with a glass of fruity red so what could be more perfect than a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, and if you want another D.O.P wine from Andalucía then try a bottle of Marqués de la Contraviesa a Cabernet Sauvignon from Bodega Cuatro Vientos. The sheep used for this cheese are a breed called Grazalemeña sheep, also known as Merino sheep, native to Andalucía they graze on the mountain pastures of the rainiest place on the Iberian Penisula in the Natural Park of the Sierra de Grazalema. And if you can imagine the Pueblos Blancos, the white villages of the Sierra de Grazalema this cheese becomes all the more enjoyable.
So cheese number three and this one is from the Province of of Jaén, Queso Sierra de Cazorla. This cheese is another pasteurised goats cheese and is made in the Parque Natural de Cazorla. Parque Natural de Cazorla is the largest protected area in the whole of Spain, there are mountain villages, stunning waterfalls, deep valleys, remote hilltop castles, it is full of wildlife and indigenous flora and fauna, has a reservoir that stretches for some 20 km and is a place of amazing and breathtakinig beauty. Queso Sierra de Cazorla is an absolute delight on the palate, strong to taste and and buttery. The cheese is matured for 3- 5 months and then coated in fresh thyme and rosemary that is grown locally and is salted through being soaked in a brine. This is a beautiful white cheese and although it has an intense flavour it's flavours are well balanced, slightly sweet, slightly salty all with a hint of herbs, making this cheese a firm favourite. This cheese is powerful and therefore needs a powerful wine, but not one that overshadows it so there is nothing better than a slice of this cheese with a glass of dry sherry and as Andalucía is the home of sherry no Andalucía cheeseboard would be complete without this fortified wine. If you want to push the boat out then you could treat yourself and your guests to a bottle of Tradición Amontillado VORS from Bodegas Tradición. VORS stands for Very Old Rare Sherry and this bottle will be around 45 years old. This sherry however is exclusive to Fortnum & Mason in the UK so if you can't get hold of a bottle then try a bottle of Almacenista Amontillado del Puerto.
Ready for the next cheese? This one is from the Province of Málaga and is quite simply called Queso Málaga. Another goats cheese for the board but this one is a fresh cheese and has no rind. Another brilliantly white and moist cheese, add some fresh figs to the board, they are a perfect addition to the board with Queso Málaga on it as the sweetness of the figs accompanies the sweet and slightly salty taste of this delicious Queso so well. It is much more milder in taste than Queso Sierra de Cazorla and as it is slightly sweeter it pairs really well with a cold glass of white and here at Eat Play Stay Spain we recommend a Muscat grape, or Moscatel in Spanish, and what could be better than Málaga cheese paired with a Vino Blanco that has a D.O. Sierras de Málaga so try a bottle of El Lagar de Cabrera from the Bodega A. Muñoz Cabrerra. This wine has a freshness to it and the grapes are handpicked before they have started to dry on the vine and has fragrances of pineapple, papaya, dried figs, cake and also notes of balsamic so sits so nice on the palate with this cheese. Enjoying the board so far?
The next cheese is from the Province of Córdoba and is made from the milk of the Merina sheep. Queso Oveja de los Pedroches. Like Manchego cheese Queso Oveja de los Pedroches is identifiable by the imprint of Esparto grass on its side, have a read of A Spanish Cheeseboard Part 1 - A Castilla-La Mancha Cheeseboard it has a little bit of interesting history about Esparto grass. The cheese is also made using the rennet from the flower of the wild thistle, the rind is rubbed in olive oil and so is yellow in colour with a creamy white centre, there is also a soft ‘torta’ version of this cheese, both leave a bitter aftertaste on the palate due to the use of rennet from the wild thistle and so this one can be hard to pair, however... cheese and pairing with a drink can be fun and there is no rule to say that cheese has to be paired with wine. Ale has been a popular drink across all of Europe throughout history and Craft ales whilst they have always been popular lost a little of their je ne sais quoi over the last couple of decades but they are making a major comeback with all generations. So we think Queso Oveja de los Pedroches is a really good pairing with a light blonde ale served cold, try a bottle of Cerveza Taperia la Nuestro, and whilst this ale is not from Andalucía but a craft ale from Castilla-La Mancha, the home of Manchego Cheese, it seems an appropiate pairing with the shared Esparto grass markings, coupled with the fact that it marries really well with this cheese and also because this type of ale is liked by hardened ale drinkers as well as novices, so even if you think you do not like real ale give this one a go you will be very surprised... This ale and others can be purchased online. Click on its photo below to enjoy this ale with your Andalucía Cheeseboard from Lo Nuestro..
So the Andalucía cheeseboard is taking shape nicely and the next one for this cheeseboard is from the Province of Huelva. The famous Italian explorer Cristoforo Colombo, Cristóbal Colón in Spanish or Christopher Columbus in English has a history with Huelva. He had spent years searching for funding to find a route to Asia and finally King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain came forward as willling to fund the expedition on the proviso they would claim sovereignty over the new lands discovered. Ferdinand and Isabella had just conquered Granada, the last Islamic stronghold on the Iberian Peninsula, and they received Columbus in Córdoba, in the Alcázar castle. Whilst he waited for their approval he stayed at the La Rábida Monastery in Huelva between 1491 and 1492. Today in Muelle de las Carabelas, the Harbour of the Caravels you can see and board lifesize replicas of his three ships, the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa María that set sail for the New World on the 2nd August 1492 and see what life would have been like for the experienced seamen from the port of Palos in Andalusia and its surrounding countryside. Anyway lets get back to the cheese and this one is called Doña Manuela and I recommend a genorous helping as it will be popular. Another goats cheese, Doña Manuela cheese comes in a variety of flavours ranging from paprika, rosemary or black pepper and for my board I am choosing Doña Manuela Queso Curado con Pimentón, the paprika recipe. This cheese is buttery, with a lingering hint of spice on the palate and is wonderful with a glass of tempranillo. Keeping in theme with Andalucía why not try a bottle of the award winning Veleta Tempranillo Crianza 2009 from the Bodega Dominio Buenavista. You will not be disappointed on the cheese or the wine.
So we have two Provinces of Andalucía left, Almería and Seville and for the next cheese on the Andalucía Cheeseboard we have Queso Las Alpujarras from Almería produced in the mountain range of Penibética This cheese is also produced in the neighbouring Province of Granada. Las Alpujarras is another goat milk cheese and is again a seasonal cheese. Made from the milk of the White Andalusian domesticated goat, Queso Las Alpujarras can be bought as either a fresh or matured cheese and as with other goats cheese has a combination of being slightly sweet as well as salty and peppery on the palate. It has a nutty aroma and has a slight elasticity to its texture. This cheese is perfect drizzled with honey and served with a handful of walnuts, its is delicious beyond words and a must for any self respecting Andalucía Cheeseboard. Again the wine for this one is Rey Zagal Sauvignon Blanc D.O.P. 2015 Vintage, the wine has a really good acidity which cuts through the sweetness of the honey and its fresh taste sits so well with this cheese and honey combination as it has a lingering taste on the palate though does not overshadow the cheese and honey. This pairing really is a match made in heaven.
And now for the final cheese on the Andalucía Cheeseboard and this one is from the capital of Andalucía, Sevilla and it is called Queso Sierra Morena also know as Queso de la Sierra Norte de Sevilla. The cheese comes in two varieties, fresh and mature and both are very different. The fresh Queso Sierra Morena is another brilliant white cheese that has a milky sweet taste and is mild in flavour, the mature Queso Sierra Morena in comparison is a semi hard cheese with a brown rind as a result of being preserved in oil during the aging process. The mature variety is strong in taste and has a grainy texture with a creamy coloured cheese inside the rind that has different sized holes. It is has a strong aroma in comparison to the fresh Queso Sierra Morena and is saltier on the palate as well as being slightly acidic. As both varieties are so different you may want to consider adding both to your Andalucía Cheeseboard as an interesting comparison and tasting for you and your guests.
So there you have it an Andalucía Cheeseboard with a selection of D.O.P wines and of course lets not forget the craft ale. This board is quite exquisite not only because of the cheese but because of where the cheeses have come from. Andalucía is quite an extraordinary part of Spain, from the coastline to the mountains, to the sunshine beating down on some of the most wonderful vineyards in the whole of Spain you cannot help but fall in love with Andalucía time and time again. It can deliver something new each and every time you visit, it has an abundance of history, is the home of Flamenco and of course these wonderful cheeses and more besides the ones on this cheeseboard. As you are putting your Andalucía Cheeseboard together remember to picture the goats and sheep on the vast mountain ranges, the Pueblos Blancos, the waterfalls and hilltop castles, the mountain villages, the seaside towns, the beginning of the discovery of the New World with Cristóbal Colón and King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain as the historical figures at the centre of one of the greatest sea faring expeditions in history, picture the sunshine on the vineyards and the snow topped mountains, the almond blossoms and the indigenoun wildlife and your Andalucía Cheeseboard will be appreciated all the more when you can imagine where these delicious cheeses originate from, their taste cannot be bettered but the story you tell with them will make them all the more interesting than they already are...