There are more than 2500 varieties of Italian cheese. Do you have a favorite? What is the best one? And what wine would you pair with it?
While there are thousands of kinds of Italian cheese, you may not have a chance to taste them all unless you're in Italy.
Still, the US imports more than its fair share of cheese from Italy. In 2021, more than 36,000 tons of it waded their way across the Atlantic Ocean and into the bellies of Americans with a healthy addition of EU tariffs.
The sales data showed the following trends in US cheese buying:
Mascarpone showed the largest growth with sales increasing by 38%. This is a spreadable cheese, similar in texture to cream cheese but with a less acidic bite, is most often used for the classic Italian dessert, tiramisu.
Provologne sales increased by 20%. No doubt you've had a Philly cheese steak sandwich blanketed with a slice of this popular cow's milk cheese. It's an absolute must in almost any Italian deli sandwich, partnering effortlessly with salami, cappicola, mortadella, and meatballs.
Pecorino sales also increased by 20%. Will this hard cheese overtake the ever popular Parmesan cheese someday? Made from sheep's milk, it has an undeniable rounded, creaminess that adds more of a milky flavor when grated over pasta compared to Parmesan.
The official DOP regulated Parmesan cheese is known as Parmigiano Reggiano. Made from part-skimmed cow's milk and aged a minimum of 12 months, it's akin to the godfather of Italian cheese in the US.
Parmesan cheese, on the other hand, is unregulated. This variety of cheese is so popular, Kraft makes a shelf stable version that comes in a iconic green tube, affordable to all but sadly bears little resemblance to the real deal Parmigiano Reggiano, with sales that increased by 6%.
Another up an comer and rival to Parmesan is Grano Padano with sales that also increased by 6%. Grana means "grainy" in Italian, and is less crumbly, milder, and sweeter than Parmigiano.
The pizza and caprese salad favorite Mozzarella cheese showed a sales increase of 12%.
Meanwhile, sales of Gorgonzola PDO shot up by 25%. This mild version of blue veined cheese made from unskimmed cow's milk works so well on its own or folded in creamy pasta sauces.
These cheese varieties barely scratch the surface of all that is available in Italy. No doubt they would pair splendidly with an Italian wine, of which Italy has over 350 grape varietals.
Which cheese and wine pairing would you choose?
Let us know and join us in our Twitter chat on December 3 at 8am PST.
If you would like to participate in our virtual Italian cheese and wine exploration, please comment below or post in the Facebook event with your blog post title and blog name by end of day, November 29, 2022.
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