The former Malpica residence, a 19th century mansion in Manzanares (Ciudad Real, Spain) is to house the world’s first museum dedicated exclusively to one of Spain’s gastronomic treasures: Manchego cheese. According to Ignacio Barco, President of the Manchego Cheese Designation of Origin, and the latest generation in a long dynasty of master cheese-makers, “This initiative started out with the aim of safeguarding the tremendous gastronomic and cultural heritage that this cheese represents. We want to make sure that we never lose the expertise and tradition that make Manchego cheese such a unique and inimitable product. The best way of preserving this heritage is to spread the word so consumers know how to appreciate the real thing and reject any imitations.”
His cheese factory, which was founded at the same time as the Regulating Council in 1840, is one of the leading producers of artisan Manchego cheese and even produces its own milk. It shares this reverence for tradition with all the other cheese factories under the umbrella of the Designation of Origin.
With a production output of over 26 million pounds of cheese per year and growth of 20 percent in the last five, the devotion the D.O. cheese-makers feel for the genuine values of their tradition is quite impressive.
According to Barco, “As an artisan cheese-maker, I’m often saddened by the public’s general ignorance about our product.” This lack of information is even more evident among international consumers. “The Americans, who are real Manchego cheese lovers, are less familiar than Europeans with the Designation of Origin system. For this reason, companies that do not belong to the DO take advantage of the reputation of Manchego cheese to introduce imitations to the U.S. market which have absolutely nothing to do with the genuine article.”
But how do you differentiate an authentic Manchego cheese from a fake? “It’s very simple,” says Barco. “Every cheese certified by the Regulating Council of the DO Manchego Cheese has a double label. Firstly there’s the identifying label on the outside of the cheese, and secondly, there’s an exclusive serial number engraved in the cheese itself; these guarantee that each piece is unique.”
A characteristic flavor that visitors to the world’s first museum devoted exclusively to Manchego cheese will be able to appreciate, not only within the walls of the former Malpica mansion itself but also outside them, in the local taverns and restaurants. Manchego cheese never ceases to delight thanks to its countless culinary facets and uses.
“As the new generation of Manchego cheese-makers, we have the obligation to continue communicating and expressing who we are, what we do, the tradition we represent and the flavor of our cheeses, all of which have given us national and international renown. We need to be out there making sure that our legacy will endure,” Barco says.