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Written by Giuseppe Zeppa

Piedmont is a region in North West of Italy that has eight provinces (Turin, Cuneo, Asti, Alessandria, Vercelli, Biella, Novara, Verbanio-Cusio-Ossola).  It occupies an area of approximately 25,000 km2 and has some 4 million inhabitants.  The region is well known for its quality engineering industries (Olivetti, Fiat, Lancia) but is also acknowledged for the quality of its agricultural products including wines (Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera, Moscato, Dolcetto), cheeses, rice and fruits and its confectionery e.g. chocolate (Nutella, Gianduiotti).

Because of the region's wide highlands and plains, milk production is a very important activity for Piedmont farms.  The Piedmont area has approximately 17,000 cows, 75,000 ewes and 39,000 goats.  There is an annual production of some 700,000 metric tonnes of cow milk.

The manufacture of cheese from local milk is an important traditional activity within the region where approximately 2,800 tonnes of cows' milk cheeses are produced.  The area is unique because it produces over 50 varieties of traditional cheeses.  Ten of these cheeses meet the EU Denomination of Protected Origin (DPO) standard and account for most of the cheese produced in the region.

The aim of this section is to discuss the most economically significant cheese varieties in Piedmont, Bra Tenero, Bruss , Tuma 'd Trausela, Gorgonzola, Cevrin di Coazze, Raschera, Taleggio, Grana Padano, Castelmagno, Murianengo, Toma del Lait brusc, Riobiola di Roccaverano, Toma Piemontese, Saras del Fèn, and Murazzano. Summary information on cheese manufacture, composition and their unique sensory properties is presented..  Summary information on cheese manufacture, composition and their unique sensory properties is presented.

Saras del Fèn

Characteristics - Saras del Fèn is a ripened ricotta cheese produced from a mixture of goats’, ewes’ and cows’ milk. The cheese is egg-shaped with a weight of 500-1500 g. Ripening lasts at least 20 days but can be longer than 1 year. It is wrapped during ripening, following local tradition, in hay characteristic of local alpine high pastures. There is no  crust in the fresh product but ripened products have an elastic crust that is wrinkled, soft, grey with yellow and white highlights. The dough is ivory or yellowish without holes. The texture is soft, elastic and sticky. The odour is fine and delicate in fresh products but strong and persistent in aged products. The taste is mainly sweet and fine but savoury, salty and hot in aged products

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Robiola di Roccaverano

Characteristics (Denomination of Protected Origin 1 July 1996) - Robiola di Roccaverano is a fresh cheese produced from ewes’ or goats’ milk or a mixture of ewes’, goats’ and cows’ milk. The quantity of cows’ milk used in manufacture must be less than 85%. Robioladi Roccaverano cheese is cylindrical with flat surfaces. The cylindrical shape has a diameter of 10-15 cm, an edge of 4-5 cm and a weight of 250-300 g. There is no rind and the dough is white or ivory-white without holes. The texture is soft and slightly firm. The odour is fine, delicate, and rarely pungent. The taste is mainly acid and fine.

Production area - The cheese is produced in 11 towns in the province of Asti and 9 towns in the province of Alessandria.

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Toma del Lait brusc

Characteristics - Toma del Lait brusc is a typical Piedmont cheese with a cylindrical appearance and flat surfaces. The cylindrical shape has a diameter of 25-35 cm, an edge of 12-18 cm and a weight of 4-8 kg. Ripening lasts at least 60 days but frequently is longer e.g. 180 days. The crust is wrinkled, hard, and reddish-grey with yellow and white highlights. The dough is ivory-white or dark-yellow with small holes. Typical greenish-blue veins due to mould growth may be present in ripened cheese. The texture is consistent, compact and very friable. In young cheeses, the odour is fine and delicate, becoming very strong and persistent in aged products. The taste is mainly sweet and fine but savoury, salty and intense in aged products.

Production area - The cheese is produced in the high pastures throughout Turin province.

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Grana Padano

Characteristics (Denomination of Protected Origin 12 June 1996) - Grana Padano is a cylindrical cheese with a diameter of 35-40 cm, an edge of 18-25 cm and a weight of 24-40 kg. Ripening lasts at least 270 days. The crust is hard, regular with a dark beige colour. The dough is white or pale-yellow with very small and sparse holes. The texture is solid, granular and the odour aromatic with almond characteristics. The taste is very savoury and mainly salty.

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Cevrin di Coazze

Characteristics - Cevrin di Coazze is a ripened cheese produced from a mixture of goats' and cows' milk.  The concentration of cows' milk must be 60-70%.  Cevrin di Coazze cheese is cylindrical with flat surfaces.  The cylindrical shape has a diameter of 15-18 cm, an edge of 7-10 cm and a weight of 800-1500 g. Ripening lasts at least 20 days but is frequently longer than 120 days.  The crust is smooth and regular but not elastic.  The colour is wrinkled, hard, and reddish-grey with yellow and white highlights depending on its age.  The dough is yellowish with small and sparse holes.  The texture is soft and elastic.  The odour is strong and persistent.  The taste is very savoury and mainly hot, salty and acid in ripened products.

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Bruss

Characteristics - Bruss is not a cheese but a typical Piedmont cheese by-product obtained by fermentation of a mix of fresh cheeses, ripened cheeses and ricotta.  These products are ground to help the fermentation and put in glass or terracotta containers.  After some day's alcohol is added to the mixture, called 'cream,' to accentuate the aroma and to stop the fermentation.

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Montebore

Characteristics - Montebore is a characteristic conic-shaped cheese obtained by overlapping three cheeses of different diameters. The final product is named “Castellino (“Small castle”) and has a weight of about 0.5-1 kg. Ripening time ranges from 6 to 60 days. The crust is smooth, regular with a light pale-yellow colour. The dough is white or ivory-white with small and sparse holes. The texture is very soft and elastic in the fresh cheese, hard, solid, compact and friable in the ripening cheese. The odour is fine and delicate with milk and cream characteristics in fresh cheese but savoury, salty and intense in aged products.

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Tomino di Talucco

Characteristics - Tomino di Talucco is a fresh cheese produced from goats’ milk or a mixture of goats’ and cows’ milk. The concentration of cows’ milk used must be less than 90%. Tomino di Talucco cheese is cylindrical with flat surfaces. The cylindrical shape has a diameter of 4-5 cm, an edge of 3-4 cm and a weight of 50-80 g. In fresh cheeses, there is no rind and the dough is white or ivory-white without holes. The texture is soft and slightly consistent. The odour is fine, delicate, and is rarely pungent. The taste is mainly acid and fine. In ripened cheeses, the rind is hard and the dough is yellow. The texture is also hard. The odour is strong, persistent and pungent. The taste is savoury and salty.

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Murianengo

Characteristics - Murianengo is a typical Piedmont cheese also known as ‘Moncenisio’ with cylindrical appearance and flat surfaces. The cylindrical shape has a diameter of 25-35 cm, an edge of 10-20 cm and a weight of 8-10 kg. Ripening lasts at least 90 days but frequently is longer than 200 days. The crust is wrinkled, hard, reddish-grey with yellow and white highlights. The dough is ivory-white or dark-yellow with small holes. In ripened cheese, greenish-blue veins due to mould growth are present. The texture is hard, compact and very friable. In fresher cheeses, the odour is fine and delicate, becoming very strong and persistent in aged products. The taste is mainly sweet and fine but savoury, salty and intense in aged products.

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Taleggio

Characteristics (Denomination of Protected Origin 12 June 1996) - Taleggio is a quadrangular cheese with flat surfaces. The square shape has a side of 18-20 cm, an edge of 4-7 cm and a weight of 1.7-2.2 kg. The ripening lasts at least 40 days. The crust is thin and soft, regular with a light grey-green colour. The dough is white or ivory-white with small and sparse holes. The texture is moderately consistent and elastic. The odour is soft with milk and cream characteristics. The taste is also very soft and mainly sweet.

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Gorgonzola

Characteristics - (Denomination of Protected Origin 12 June 1996)– Gorgonzola is a typical blue cheese with cylindrical appearance with flat surfaces. The cylindrical shape has a diameter of 20-32 cm and an edge of 16-20 cm. The Gorgonzola can be produced as ‘big shape’ with a weight of 10-13 kg and a ripening time at least 50 days, as ‘medium shape’ with a weight of 9-12 kg and a ripening time of at least 80 daysand as ‘small shape’ with a weight of 6-8 kg and a ripening time of at least 60 days. The crust is wrinkled, soft, and reddish-grey with yellow and white highlights. The dough is white or ivory-white or dark-yellow without holes and with typical greenish-blue veins due to mould growth. The texture is very soft, sticky and can be spread. In young cheeses, the odour is fine and delicate, becoming very strong and persistent in aged cheeses. The taste is very savoury and mainly hot.

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Tuma ‘d Trausela

Characteristics - Tuma ‘d Trausela is a typical Piedmont fresh cheese with a cylindrical appearance. The cylindrical shape has a diameter of 25-35 cm, an edge of 4-5 cm and a weight of 0.9-1.1 kg. It is sold fresh, not more than two days old. This product is a fresh curd similar to the ‘Giuncà’ a typical product of Liguria and some Piedmont areas. There is no crust and the dough is white or ivory-white without holes. The texture is very soft, tender, and ‘wet’. The odour is fine and delicate, with trace of milk and cream. The taste is mainly sweet and fine.

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Murazzano

Characteristics (Denomination of Protected Origin 1 July 1996) - Murazzano is a fresh cheese produced from ewes’ milk or a mixture of ewe’ and cows’ milk. The Murazzano cheese is cylindrical with flat surfaces. The cylindrical shape has a diameter of 10-15 cm, an edge of 3-4 cm and a weight of 300-400 g. The ripening is from 4 to 10 days. There is no rind but only a yellowish patina in matured cheese. The dough is white or ivory-white with few small holes. The texture is soft. The odour is fine and delicate. The taste is mainly sweet and fine but savoury and more intense in aged products.

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Toma Piemontese

Characteristics (Denomination of Protected Origin 1 July 1996)  –Toma Piemontese is a cylindrical cheese produced in two sizes: large (6-8 kg) with a diameter of 24-34 cm and small (1.8-5.9 kg) with a diameter of 15-25 cm. Ripening lasts at least 15 days for the small size and 60 days for the large size.

There are two type of Toma Piemontese:

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Castelmagno

Characteristics (Denomination of Protected Origin 1 July 1996) - Castelmagno is a cylindrical cheese with flat surfaces.  The cylindrical shape has a diameter of 15-25 cm, an edge of 15-25 cm and a weight of 2-7 kg.  The cheese is ripened for atleast 60 days but frequently for longer e.g. 180 days.  The crust is wrinkled, hard, reddish-grey with yellow and white highlights.  The dough is white or ivory-white or dark-yellow without holes.  In ripened cheese, greenish-blue veins due to mould growth may be present.  The texture is hard, compact and very friable.  In fresher cheeses, the odour is fine and delicate, becoming very strong and persistent in aged cheeses.  The taste is very savoury and mainly salty in ripened products.

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Raschera

Characteristics (Denomination of Protected Origin 1 July 1996) - Raschera is a cylindrical or quadrangular shaped cheese with flat surfaces. The cylindrical shape has a diameter of 30-40 cm, a convex edge of 7-9 cm and a weight of 7-9 kg. The square shape has a side of 40 cm, an irregular edge of 12-15 cm and a weight of 8-10 kg. The cheese is ripened for at least 30 days. The crust is thin, elastic and regular, reddish-grey with yellow highlights and red patches. The dough is white or ivory-white with a few small and sparse holes. The texture is firm and elastic. In fresher cheeses, the odour is fine and delicate, becoming more intense and persistent in aged cheese. The taste is mainly sweet and fine but very savoury and mainly salty in ripened products.

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Bra Duro

Characteristics - (Denomination of Protected Origin 1 July 1996) -Bra Duro is a cylindrical cheese with a diameter of 30-40 cm that has a convex edge of 7-9 cm and a weight of 6-8 kg.  The ripening lasts at least 180 days.  The crust is hard,regular with a dark beige colour.  The cheese is yellow-ochre in colour with small and sparse holes.  The cheese has a hard solid texture and has an aromatic odour with almond characteristics.  The taste is very savoury and mainly salty.

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Bra Tenero

Characteristics - (Denomination of Protected Origin 1 July 1996) -Bra Tenero is a cylindrical cheese with a diameter of 30-40 cm, a convex edge of 7-9 cm and a weight of 6-8 kg.  The cheese is ripened for at least 45 days.  The crust is smooth, regular with a light grey colour.  The dough, or internal cheese body, is white or ivory-white with small and sparse holes.  The texture is moderately hard and elastic.  The odour is 'soft', not strong, with milk and cream characteristics.  The taste is also very soft (bland) and mainly sweet.

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