Manchego tastes great on its own. But with the “al fresco” dining season starting, it’s also a good idea to pair it with a suitable drink. The experts from the Manchego Cheese Regulating Council in Spain, the organization that certifies the authenticity of every Manchego cheese, give us their recommendations.
1. Make it vibrant with Tempranillo: The lively red fruit and dryness of this Spanish grape variety offer the perfect backdrop to the slightly acidic, strong and tasty flavors of Manchego. Since Tempranillo translates as “little early one” due its early ripening, it’s ironic that it matches up so well with a cheese that matures for up to two years.
2. Freshen it up with Verdejo: Verdejo wines are aromatic, often soft and light-bodied. They smell like a big bowl of citrus and green apples, a fruitiness that makes for a great combination with Manchego. Verdejos, and especially Spanish Ruedas, are nowadays widely available across the US.
3. Go pro with a La Mancha themed tasting: La Mancha has 9 wine Protected Designation of Origins and so one good idea might be pairing Manchego cheese with wines from the region. “You can try a semi-cured Manchego with a young white from PDO La Mancha or a very well cured Manchego cheese with a medium-bodied red from PDO Valdepeñas,” recommends Santiago Altares, Certification Director at the PDO Manchego Cheese Regulating Council.
4. Make it classy with Sherry: This Andalusian wine is as layered and complex as Manchego cheese. Pairing any aged Manchego with a chilled Sherry wine creates a perfect tapa before lunch or a great post-dinner treat alongside dessert.
5. Try it with beer: Why not enjoy Manchego with beer? As Santiago Altares points out: “nutty aged Manchego finds a good complement in malty beers like nut-brown ales, stouts and porters. The reason is the nut and caramel aromas of the beer are very harmonious with the ones you find in aged Manchegos.”
Useful tips for identifying P.D.O. Manchego
Make sure you buy authentic Manchego by looking for the following elements on each cheese: the Manchego logo; the serial number – a combination of 5 numbers and 2 letters, exclusive to every cheese; a casein tab printed on the bottom of the cheese; the brand label containing the statements “made of 100% Manchega ewe’s milk”; and, in the case of a raw milk cheese, the word “artesano.”