This historic cheese is named for the Spanish region of La Mancha, also home of Don Quixote. Made of pasteurized sheep’s milk, it has a black gray or buff colored rind with a crosshatch pattern. The interior ranges from stark white to yellow, depending on age.
The aroma should suggest lanolin and roast lamb. The final cheese is usually smeared with olive oil and surface mould is removed. It has a number of holes and a mild, slightly briny, nutty flavor. It is sold at various stages of maturity: at the age of 13 weeks it is described as curado (cured) and, when over three months old it is referred to as viejo (aged).
There is a peppery bite to cheeses that have reached a great age. It is the best known of a series of sheep milk cheeses and is similar to Zamorano, Cadiz, Calahora or Castelleno. You can serve it with baguette, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and open a bottle of fine Rioja or pair it with dry (fino) sherry like Osborne’s fino, or Tio Pepe. For Riojas, choose a winery like Martinez Bujanda, Marques de Riscal, Baron de Ley, Faustino, or CUNE just to name a few