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The Land of 400 Cheeses

It seems that every valley and village in Spain has its own special cheese.

man in the countryside holding two wheels of cheese From the sunny Balearic Island of Menorca comes Mahón, a wonderfully creamy combination of cream from three distinct strains of cows. The rounded orange-rinded cheese is reminiscent of Dutch Gouda or Edam. On the northwest coast, milk from the cows of Celtic Galicia are made into traditional Tetilla, one of our most popular cheeses.

High in the glorious coastal mountains of Cantabria artisans make the complex artisanal Cabrales -- the king of blue cheeses. The flavorful blue mold in this cheese evolves naturally from the walls of the caves in which the cheeses are stored for curing -- unlike its cousins in Denmark and France where the mold is introduced artificially by injection. Cabrales is predominately made of cow's milk, although often blended with that of goat and sheep's milk according to a secret formula whose origin is lost in time. It is delightful accompanied by brandy or sherry, or crumbled on a crisp green salad. Of course it makes a remarkably bright 'blue cheese' dressing.

Sheep's milk is the source for the most popular cheeses of Spain, due to centuries of vast herds of sheep covering much of Spain. The most familiar cheese is Manchego, produced in La Mancha, the central meseta of Spain -- the land of windmills and Don Quixote. The local Manchega sheep roams the dry, open countryside, enjoying wild herbs and grasses that add a complexity of flavor to the final cheeses.

A word of caution - there are many cheeses in the marketplace called 'Manchego,' just as there are many cheeses called 'cheddar.' Only the cheese bearing the 'Denomination of Origin' sticker is the real thing - and there is a world of difference.

You might also like to try a smoked shepherd's cheese from the Basque Country or Zamorano, the semi-hard cheese from the medieval town of Zamora. There are even soft cheeses like Torta la Serena that can be served with a spoon.

We could go on to many other great cheeses, but there is nothing like tasting them for yourself. We have traveled the countryside of Spain, discovering our favorite cheeses and offering them here for you. We hope you enjoy the variety and flavor of these delicious cheeses.


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