Montasio, from the mountain to the table, with common sense
Let us discover the unique qualities of a harmonious cheese that retains an authentic and pure bond with the territory from which it comes
The name is that of the Jôf Montasio massif, the highest of the Italian Julian Alps. We are in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, at the crossroads of the three borders between Italy, Austria, and Slovenia. It is in these mountain pastures that a cheese with unique organoleptic properties used to be produced, the result of the combination of ‘that’ hay, ‘those’ cows and ‘that’ mountain air.
It was the ‘vero Montasio’, now Montasio PDO, a cheese that has maintained its uniqueness and its precious link with the territory over time.
Identikit of Montasio DOP, the ‘common sense’ cheese
The first known written evidence of the existence of the Friuli PDO dates back to 1773. In a price book kept in the Guarneriana library of San Daniele del Friuli, ‘Formaggio di Montasio vero’ is cited as one of the most prized cheeses of the time. The art of producing this mountain cheese has continued over time, from generation to generation, reaching us almost intact and unchanged.
Today, in addition to the mountains, Montasio PDO is also produced on the Friulian plain, in the valleys and hills of the Belluno and Treviso areas and in the areas between the Brenta and Piave rivers. These are the areas recognised by the Protection Consortium, which supervises all processing and distribution stages, starting with the nutrition of the cows.
The milk is used unpasteurised, to maintain all its properties intact. For the same reason, cooking takes place at not too high temperatures and drying by slow pressing.
Neither too fat nor too lean, Montasio PDO has been defined as the cheese of good sense, because it finds its uniqueness precisely in harmony. And it is in the maturing process that this product unfolds its various facets: fresh, medium, and mature. The minimum maturing period envisaged by the specifications is 60 days. After two months, Montasio PDO, with a soft paste, reveals its more lactic notes and is already suitable for those who are intolerant as it loses its lactose.
Mezzano, with a maturation period of up to 10 months, takes on a more defined and savoury flavour. The matured version, which takes up to 18 months, has a more compact, crumbly, and grainy texture, making it perfect to be eaten flaked or grated. After this ripening period, Montasio PDO is defined as ‘stravecchio’.
Montasio Prodotto di Montagna
And it is in the maturing process that this product unfolds its various facets: fresh, medium, and mature. There is in fact also a Montasio PDM, where PDM means ‘mountain product’. Always remaining within the regions and provinces covered by the specifications, if this cheese is produced (at all stages of the production chain) in the mountains, it takes on this specific definition. Every year, this everlasting link is exalted in Malga Montasio, where this cheese has its ancient origins, with the Montasio cheese-making festival, which renews the pact between man and the land and its products.
Montasio on the table
Montasio PDO, in its various maturation stages, generously appeals to different tastes and needs in the kitchen, from the freshest to the one ideal for grating. The flavour remains very balanced and not bitter, to which tangy notes are added in the long maturing process. Appreciated served in a lavish aperitif platter, or as a main course, accompanied by pears or dried fruit, and in various regional specialities, most notably ‘frico’, a typical Friulian dish made with cheese and potatoes.
Those who would like to pair it with wine can simply select regional labels such as Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso or Schioppettino.
In general, the most suitable wines are dry, harmonious, full-bodied reds with a good aromatic persistence.