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Everything You Need to Know About Manchego Cheese Wine Pairing

For a Manchego cheese wine pairing, we must first travel to the largest plain of Spain – La Mancha, an arid but fertile plateau in central Spain and home to the country’s largest wine growing region.

In La Mancha, where Don Quixote tilted at windmills, the fertile plains stretch out before you until in the distance golden fields meet the sky. 

In places, the horizon is broken by gentle rolling hills, ancient towns with castles upon hilltops, and finally the Toledo Mountains.

Vineyards cover nearly 500,000 acres of the land, and manchega sheep, whose ancestors date back to the Bronze age, roam in the thousands.

A wheat field serves as pasture for sheep from Castilla la Mancha, Spain. They move from one pasture to another surrounding the few existing trees. Photo by Isabel Bueno.

From those sheep comes Spain’s most famous cheese. 

Manchego cheese, a semi-hard sheep’s milk cheese with a distinctive balance of sweet and savory, has a buttery texture and notes of fruits and nuts. The Manchego becomes piquant as it ages. 

In this article, we’ll journey through La Mancha as we point out interesting facts about the cheese and the region in which it originates.

As always, we hope you’re around for the whole Manchego cheese wine pairing journey. Our belief is that knowledge is a key to meaningful experiences. You may pick up a few talking points for your next wine and cheese gathering. 

Expand the Table of Contents below to quickly move through sections about a Manchego cheese wine pairing.

Interesting Facts About Manchego Cheese

Manchego cheese comes only from the whole milk of manchega sheep in the La Mancha provinces of Albacete, Ciudad Real, Cuenca, or Toledo.

As such, authentic “queso manchego” is protected under Spain’s regulatory Designation of Origin (DO) as well as the European’s Union PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) status.

Manchego cheese is aged a minimum of 60 days and up to a maximum of two years. Within Spain, you may find Fresco Manchego, which has only been aged two weeks. However, the fresco cheese does not carry the official designation.

The three other types of Manchego cheese are categorized by age.

The Semi Curado, which means semi firm, is aged three weeks to three months. The texture is moist and supple. Flavor notes: Grassy with a fruity sweetness and a slight tang. 

Curado Manchego, which is possible to find in the U.S., is aged three to six months. By this time, the cheese is firmer and presents as nutty with sweet notes. The color is slightly yellow and the texture is smooth and creamy. At this stage, the cheese works wonderfully for melting. 

Viejo Manchego, the firmest, is aged for one to two years and presents with a sharp flavor, a crumbly texture, and a rich yellow color. You will notice a crystalline structure throughout the cheese.

Manchego cheese must be produced in cylindrical molds with a maximum height of 12 cm (4.7 in) and a maximum diameter of 22 cm (8.7 in). The molds have a basket-type weave that imprints into the cheese rind.

At one time, the molds were made from the woven grass of the plains. Artisans still use the ancient basket technique.

In this video by Food Insider, you will be able to see one of the original grass woven baskets and the full modern process of making Manchego cheese.

Notice the basket weave imprint on the outside of the cheese wheels. CC image courtesy of Carlos Lorenzo on Flickr.

Manchego Cheese Wine Pairing Suggestions

Our recommendations for a manchego cheese wine pairing begins in Spain. Afterall, what grows together goes together.

The traditional wine pairing for Manchego cheese is Sherry. A fortified-wine from Spain, Sherry is not to be confused with the stereotypical cooking wine, which is probably why the wine with a 13th century history is often snubbed by Americans.

Authentic Sherry may be sweet or dry and made primarily from the Palomino grape. If your Sherry doesn’t come from the Jerez growing region, then it is not considered an authentic Sherry protected by the demarcated origin status granted by Spanish law. 

Jerez is a triangular shaped area bounded by the towns of Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María in Andalusia, Spain.

For our Manchego cheese wine pairing, we’re recommending one of the most popular of all Sherries – The Cream Sherry. Harveys Bristol Cream Sherry is an affordable choice made with grapes from the Jerez region.

Harveys Bristol Cream Sherry

Harveys Cream Sherry, a favorite since the 1950s, is the top selling sherry in the world.

Winemaker notes: “On the nose delicate, fruity, fresh and aromatic with notes of raisins and hints of caramel. On the palate smooth, creamy and elegant highlighting the fruitiness of the PX and the evolved vinosity of the Oloroso.”

Grapes: Oloroso, PX, Fino and Amontillado.

Bodegas Volver Paso A Paso Tinto 2018

In keeping with a traditional manchego cheese wine pairing, our next two wine selections are based on Spain’s most well-known native grape – Tempranillo.

The Paso A Paso Tinto 2018 from the Bodegas Volver winery is made from grapes grown on the best terroir of La Mancha.

Tempranillo Wines from Rioja, Spain

For a Manchego cheese wine pairing, you can’t go wrong with a wine from Spain’s most famous wine region where the Tempranillo grape is champion.

“With its beautiful rolling landscapes, medieval hamlets, and exquisite wines, the La Rioja region is Spain’s Tuscany,” according to Cellar Tours.

“Food and wine lovers will be in heaven in Rioja, with soul-satisfying dishes on offer like baby lamb chops roast over grapevines, velvety bean and slightly spicy chorizo stews, sautéed vegetable “menestras,” and more.”

For our Manchego cheese wine pairing, we have five recommended bottles of La Rioja wines based on the Tempranillo varietal.

Ribera del Duero Spanish Wines

The Ribera del Duero is a wine growing region along the Duero River in Spain. In Portugal, the same river, named the Duoro, winds through Portugal’s most famous wine growing region and is home to the world-reknown Port wine.

You can also join us as we Explore the Wine Regions of Portugal.

To achieve the official Designation of Origin, Ribera del Duero wines must contain 75% of the Tempranillo grape. These wines are among the most food-friendly of Spanish wines.

The Ribera del Duero wines will pair well with a more mature Manchego cheese. Our Manchego cheese wine pairings in this grouping includes six wines from the region.

Ribera del Duero vineyard. CC image by Photholic on Flickr.

Where can I buy Manchego Cheese?

In the U.S., Manchego cheese is not difficult to find. Most specialty supermarkets and gourmet food stores will carry an authentic Manchego.

Our go-to online location for order cheese is Murray’s Cheese in New York City. If you ever have a chance, visit the original store in Greenwich Village. It a highlight of my first trip to NYC.

Currently, Murray’s carries online both aged and younger Manchego cheese. You order by 1/2 pound increments.

If you want a whole cheese wheel or an intact portion of at least 2 pounds for a Manchego cheese wine pairing, contact the team at orders@murrrayscheese.com at least 72 hours prior to the date of shipment.

What foods to serve with a Manchego Cheese Wine Pairing?

To complete your Manchego cheese wine pairing, you will need nuts, fruits, and meats. However, this is not the time to rely on your typical charcuterie board selections.

For an authentic, traditional Manchego cheese wine pairing, we need to travel once again to Spain for ideas on accompanying foods.

Marcona Almonds

If you are a fan of Spanish tapas, you’ve no doubt experienced the Marcona almond. They are a staple of Spanish cuisine and one of Spain’s most well-known exports. 

In recent years, global demand for the “Queen of Almonds” has prompted Spanish farmers to forgo some of their traditional crops in favor of the Marcona almond tree, moving Spain’s almond production closer to its main rival for almond exports, the United states. 

Working in Spain’s favor, the Marcona almond has some benefits over a U.S.-grown almond. Attributes of the Marcona almond include:

  • Rounded, plump, and softer texture than the California almond
  • Similar in texture to macadamia nuts
  • Sweeter, delicate taste
  • No pesticides used

It’s now possible to find Marcona almonds in the U.S. We found a selection of choices for you:

Marcona Almonds Close Up
A close-up of Marcona Almonds. CC image by Jonathan Pincas on Flickr.
Almonds marcona 2015
Marcona Almond tree. CC image by Antoni.Vidal on Flickr.

Membrillo (Quince Paste)

Paste made from Quince fruit is standard fare on a cheese board in Spain and a favorite accompaniment to Manchego cheese. We’re thankful that Membrillo is also popular in the U.S. and easy to find.

A favorite Spanish quince paste on Amazon is imported by Mitica gourmet foods. Their quince paste is made only from quince, sugar, and lemon.

Mehran, a customer who regularly orders the this quince paste, shares an easy, delicious appetizer:

“I just cut it up in small pieces, about 24 for one pack, cut some Manchego cheese cubes, roll the quince paste in some crushed almonds, and then use a toothpick to assemble a great looking appetizer with cheese on bottom, a sprig of watercress or arugula in middle, and the cubed quince paste on top. An easy and visually stunning appetizer.”

Other good choices for ordering online for quince paste:

Fruits to Serve with Manchego Cheese

  • Fresh figs when available are the most traditional fruit selection. Dried figs can be substituted, but try your best to at least once try fresh figs with Manchego.
  • The all-around cheese accompaniment – grapes!
  • My go-to fruit to eat with cheese is a date. Even dried dates go perfectly well with a Manchego.
  • Sweet pears.

How to Serve Your Manchego Cheese Wine Pairing

Set the scene with a simple, rustic tableau. After all, Manchego cheese comes from Spain’s wilderness – a vast plateau with miles and miles of grazing lands.

We’ve selected a sampling of cheese boards befitting the ancient, rural landscape of La Mancha.

4 Cheese Boards for a Manchego Cheese Wine Pairing

Acacia Wood Tapas and Charcuterie Board

  • Food-safe finish
  • Dimensions – 6″ L x 26.5″ W x 1″ H
  • Faux leather strap
  • Made of acacia wood
  • Hand wash only

Round Acacia Wood Cheese Board

  • 2 carrying handles
  • Dimensions – 13.75″ L x 15.5″ W x 1.25″ H
  • Made of acacia wood
  • Hand wash only

Set of 2 Geo Boards

  • Comes in gift box
  • Dimensions – L 24″ x W 6″ x D 0.5″, small L 20″ x W 8″ x D 0.5″
  • Made of acacia wood
  • Hand wash only

Rachael Ray’s Wood Serving Board

  • Leather hanging strap
  • Comes in two sizes: 14″ x 11x and 17″ by 12″
  • Made of acacia wood
  • Hand wash recommended

Should I use cheese knives?

For everyday purposes, a cheese knife may be just another kitchen gadget. However, when serving something like a Monchego cheese wine pairing or a charcuterie spread, investing in a set of cheese tools is a worthwhile investment.

If you’ve gone to the point of selecting a cheese board and wine glasses, why bring out the kitchen knives?

We’ve researched cheese knives to find a few all-around sets as well as individual knives.

Best Cheese Tools Sets

Best Individual Cheese Knives

Spanish Bodega Wine Glasses

In Spanish and Italian bodegas, wine is often served in tumblers – a throwback to simpler, rustic times.

A bodega wine glass is a wide glass tumbler with straight sides. They have the distinction of being both rustic and elegant in their simplicity. Bodega glasses are great for parties.

Red wines may actually benefit from the warmth of your hand as you hold the glass tumbler.

The most popular bodega wine glasses are made by Italian manufacturer Bormioli Rocco, which also produces glasses in Spain. The Bormioli family first established their glassworks factory in 1825 in Parma, Italy.

Bormioli Rocco Bodega Collection

Set of 12, 7.5 ounces each
Set of 12, 12 ounces each

Conclusion

A cheese and wine experience can be more than a culinary delight. As in the case of a Manchego cheese wine pairing, the experience can transport you to Spain’s ancient agrarian plains. 

As you sample the Manchego cheese and drink the Spanish wines, imagine that you are sharing in a custom created hundreds of years ago in the Spanish wilderness, a place where few travelers ventured. 

We’d love to hear about your cheese and wine pairings. Leave us a comment below.

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