As I was attending 2017 Vinitaly, the biggest Italian professional wine fair in Verona, I had the pleasure of meeting the people from the Consorzio Grana Padano, the promotion body of one the most famous Italian cheeses that happens to be produced around Verona: Grana Padano.
I had already tasted a few of Grana Padano cheeses, and paired them with some Italian wines. Find all Grana Padano-related articles here.
I promised that I would investigate and learn more about this tasty cheese, how it’s made and where it comes from, in particular deepening the angle of how it pairs with wine.
I will also go and visit the region and production facilities in June, so stay tuned 😊
That’s All Well, but What is Grana Padano Cheese?
Grana Padano is in fact one of the most ancient hard cheeses in the world!
Invented about 1000 years ago in the North of Italy, it was found that slow cooking the milk, adding rennet and then salting the cheese was an obvious solution to preserve milk and be able to enjoy it safely over long periods of time.
The name “formai de grana” or simply “grana” derivated from the cheese’s typical grainy texture (“grana” meaning “grain” in Italian).
The Grana Padano produced in the Po Valley became increasingly popular and was the centre piece of Renaissance banquets treasured by Princes and Dukes.
Grana Padano Today
Today Grana Padano cheese has become a staple in Italian cuisine, used as a grated cheese over risotto, pasta or pizza, but also into all sorts of traditional or modern cuisine dishes.
The cheese benefits from a Protected Denomination of Origin (PDO) with production methods that are strictly regulated. The mil can only be produced from certain areas in the North of Italy.
A cheese wheel can never be under 24 kg, but a wheel can weigh up to 40 kg and if a wheel passes all the tests, it is fire-branded with the registered logo.
Grana Padano Vintages, All go Well with Wine
Grana Padano Wheels are classified depending on their age and therefore their level of maturation, also called ‘vintages’.
Young cheeses are creamier, softer and less crumbly than older cheeses that develop stronger more complex flavors.
All though, go well with wine. But you might want to adapt your wine to the type of Grana Padano you are using.
I personally prefer a younger, dry and crisp wine for the older versions (e.g. Grana Padano Riserva aged for over 20 months) to cut through their saltiness and rich flavors, while a more full-bodied and spicy aged wine just pairs wonderfully with the creamy younger cheese, as illustrated below.
Aged between 9 and 16 months
Suggested wine Pairing: 10 Year-Old Tuscan White wine by Caiarossa
Aged more than 16 months
Suggested wine Pairing: Langhe Bianco Wine
Aged for Over 20 months
Suggested Pairing: Franciacorta Sparkling Wine