THE BIRTHPLACE OF MONTASIO CHEESE
Enter the world of Italian cheese, and you're sure to be amazed at their diversity. The Italian Cheese Guide identifies 293 varieties of Italian cheese. That's almost a lifetime of cheese sampling! Is it any wonder that Italian cheese is king of the cheese universe? Climate and landscape variances from north to south produce Italian cheese that can explode with strong aromatic flavor, or remain mellow. Adhearing to old world methods, most Italian cheese is still made as it was in centuries past.
The northeastern corner of Italy is home to the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region which claims fame to origin of Montasio Cheese. Located in the foothills of the Alps, Friuli is bordered on the east by Slovenia (the former Yugoslavia) and Austria to the north.
The region inherited culinary influences from many cultures. The neighbors of Austria, Croatia, Hungary and Slovenia have had their impact, as have the other regions of Italy itself. Once referred to as “food of the poor”, simplistic yet flavorful dishes are the norm in Friuli.
Under the working-man cloak of Hungarian goulash and hearty stews, you'll find quality hams, sausage and a fine selection of seafood from its southern ports. Combined with the regions' renown Polenta, the main dish is about to develop. An appetizer of local Prosciutto and Montasio cheese requires only appropriate wine selections to complete the menu.
The wine of the Friuli region were regarded primarily for fruity-style whites, such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio. The region was hardly a competitor in the red wine market until modern times. Production of red wine was dominated by the growers of the Piedmont and Tuscany regions, which left Friuli only their white vines to nurture if they were to compete in the Italian wine market. This worked well for them as an increased interest in white wine of a few decades past put Friuli on the wine map. Recent demands returned to red wine and prompted a region-wide effort toward refining the production of that variety. These endeavors were rewarded as an increase of their market share in reds has been achieved over the past few decades. Friuli now offers some very respectable varietals of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Nero.
This region is argued to be the home of Grappa. Grappa is an Italian liqueur produced in northern Italy using by-products of Italy's thriving wine making industry. Italian Grappa is distilled pomace (read...the pulp) that remains after the pressing of the grapes. Grappa is the Italian version of France's Marc.
Experience the tastes of the Friuli region and you're sure to be surprised. An appetizer of Montasio cheese along with a wine from the Collio or the Colli Orientali areas is the perfect beginning to any meal. If you're feeling bold, a snifter of Grappa finishes off the occasion quite nicely.
Experiment with Montasio cheese as well as the culinary flavors of the Friuli region in your next dish and you can thank me later by sharing your recipe. Good Luck and...buon appetito!