Pienza Sheep Cheese Tasting
The sheep Cheese made in Pienza is knowned around the world as “Pecorino di Pienza”. The very special and traditional aging process takes place in wooden barriques, but that is not all what gives it this special taste acclamed by all.
Let’s find out more about the secret behind such delicious flavours and why can they be achieved only in Pienza, then let’s find out together where is it best to taste it.
Pecorino di Pienza
Sheep cheese made in Pienza are not a DOP (the Italian label for “protected designation of origin”) and therefore cheeses might be called “Pecorino di Pienza” even if they are produced outside the territory of Pienza, the city build by Pope Pio II.
At the end of this article we tell you where you can taste and buy this delicious cheese. But first we need to make a brief introduction for us to understand better what makes it so special.
The real Pecorino di Pienza stands out from all the other sheep cheeses (also called Pecorino in Italian), no matter how good they can be.
This is thanks to the specific spontaneous grass and aromatic herbs present in the pastures around Pienza. This set of herbs ensure a milk with flavors typical of the local terroir. That result in a milk with unique flavours for a cheese different from all the others.
Pienza: the ideal city for Papa Pio II
In Pienza cheese taste even better as our happy sheep friends graze in the meadows of the Val d’Orcia, the UNESCO Worldwide Heritage Site of Tuscany. Pastures around Pienza stand out thanks to the presence of those three herbs:
This particular set of plants creates a real paradise for the production of Pecorino di Pienza cheese.
To make an exceptional cheese, to the rich flavors of Val d’Orcia’s pastures and the happy sheeps were only missing Italian traditions and ancestral knowledge of cheese making.
How is Pienza Sheep Cheese made?
As you may have already guessed, the production of a good Pecorino begins with a good pasture and happy sheep! Without this it is not possible to obtain a cheese with intense and complex flavors.
Many think that all the aromas and flavors of the local pastures would be reset by pasteurizing milk. It would make milk more neutral. For many, raw milk is the only way to enhance the terroir.
What to see at Montalcino
Just 20 minutes from Pienza and Relais Osteria dell’Orcia,
this medieval city has become one of the wine capitals of our beautiful country.
In this short article we explain you everything you need to know.
The milk is heated to a temperature of around 27/28 ° C (80/82°F). Then rennet is added. Rennet are the good microbiology that transform the milk in delicious sheep cheese. They eat the milk and transformed it into a kind of yogurt name “curd”.
Once the curd is formed we proceed in making a fresh cheese or a mature cheese.
- for aged Pienza sheep cheese: once formed, the curd is heat up at 37 °C (99F)
- for fresh Pienza sheep cheese there is no need to further heat the curd. The curd is place into forms (containers that give the final form to the cheese) and left to aged a few hours to a few days before being ready to eat.
After processing and salting, the Pecorino Cheese we like to aged is put into containers to give it is final form and left to mature for at least 90 days in oak barriques.
The cheese will have different flavors and aromas depending on the aging process and the feed the sheep gets during its life.
Pecorino di Pienza stands out from the others sheep cheese for its variety of flavors: strong if the sheep have been fed on pasture, more delicate if they are raised with cereals.
Pienza Sheep Cheese Tasting
There are many variations and many good cheese maker of Pecorino di Pienza. It would not be possible to enumerate them all. We like to buy ours directly from those producers.
Il Podere Il Casale is an organic converted farmhouse offering a fantastic Pienza pecorino but also cooking classes.
The Enoteca Marusco e Maria, a shop in the center of Pienza. Their cellars for aging pecorino are worth seeing.
The farm of the Piu Dairy guarantees some of the most beautiful views of the Val d’Orcia.
At our restaurant “La Vecchia Posta“, we offer the opportunity to make up for it with homemade Pici al Cacio e Pepe and a cart of Italian cheese.
Pici: a traditional Handmade Pasta from Pienza
Pici are handmade rolled pasta, they look like thicker spaghetti.
Traditionally they should only be eaten fresh
but today one can find them dried in shops all other Tuscany.
Pici al Cacio e Pepe is the very traditional Pici dish.
It stands for Pici with Pecorino Cheese and Black Pepper.
An absolute must try of any holidays in Val d’Orcia!
We wish you a good degustation and a pleasant time in Tuscany. If you are organizing a visit to Pienza do not forget to consult the weather on the dedicated page on our site.
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