It just so happens that my two random cheese choices this week are from Veneto: ubriaco del piave and monte veronese with amarone wine. Both are cow’s milk cheeses cured in wine must (the pressed skins, seeds and stems of grapes), both cost more than $25/pound at Wegmans, and both provide a welcomed epicurean escape from the mundane.
While neither are cheeses I actually tried while living or travelling in Italy, Google helped me understand not only where and how the cheeses are produced but also who sells/imports them. Atalanta Corporation, a multinational food importer founded in 1945 and headquartered in New Jersey, attracted my attention with their vivid descriptions of “my” cheeses:
Monte Veronese with amarone wine
This cheese is a Monte Veronese D.O.P – a semi cooked “pressed” cow’s milk cheese aged over 5 – 6 months. It is then carefully cured with the “must” from the grapes used to make “Amarone” wine. The area of production of the Monte Veronese cheese (in the hills north of Verona) is the same as that which produces the Amarone, – one of Italy’s most historic and prestigious wines. The cheese has the definite flavor of the Amarone wine, an aroma of fruits tending towards candied and/or unsweetened cherries with a slight hint of musk. Some wheels may have a thin vein-like line running through the center. This is rare and remarkable – it sometimes happens that the wine will diffuse itself naturally into this quite extraordinary cheese. (Quote grabbed from this page.)
Ubriaco del piave
It was in 1917 the terrible year of the first world war, in the Veneto region the population had long been afflicted not just with the sacrifices that a war entails, but also the weight of having to support the troops.Some peasant, the name of whom history does not record,had the idea of hiding the cheese just produced that seasoned after the summer from the soldiers by storing it on the racks in the cellars. It was autumn, the time of the harvest. And so, why not hide a few rounds in the vats of must, under the fermenting vinasse? A desperate ploy that then turned out to be a stroke of genius. The cheese had actually taken on a new lease of life in the vats, the consistency had acquired a softness and straw yellow colour, it had acquired a highly original taste somewhere between fruity and spicy: a true joy for the palate. In 1976, in dusting off this peasant tradition, the company began to produce this cheese which we called “UBRIACO” – which means “drunk”.This is a “latteria cheese from Friuli. Aged about 4 months it has been cured with the must from cabernet and merlot wine. – both wines from the area near the historic Piave River, which takes it’s source in the Dolomite mountains and runs into the Adriatic just north of Venice. This was the very first of these type of “Ubriachi” cheeses! Best if served with the same type of wine with which it has been cured. (Quote grabbed from here.)