Campos Góticos is a farmstead sheep’s milk cheese produced in the Villerias de Campos area in the province of Palencia, Spain. Owner Mariano Paramio Antolin has been producing cheese here since 1993, when he decided to create a value-added product using his milk from the local Churra breed of sheep. Only one year after production began, Campos Góticos had already won an award for the best sheep’s milk cheese in Europe.
Mariano has played an instrumental role in preserving this native species of sheep, which produces 8-10 times less milk than a foreign diary breed. Despite the low yield, the milk is of extremely high organoleptic quality. With his 1400 sheep and some milk purchased from a neighbor, Mariano produces 90,000 kilos of this hard, pressed cheese each year.
In producing Campos Góticos, milk is channelled from the milking room into the cheesemaking room within 10 minutes. After coagulating the raw milk at 96 degrees, the curd is broken down into rice-sized grains. Whey is drained off and used to supplement the feed of farm stock, while the curd is filled into cheesecloth-lined-molds and pressed. Wheels are moved into a cold room for 1-2 days and brined in a 1% salt solution before being placed in an aging room where they’re turned every 2-3 days. In this room, wheels develop a natural mold that’s rubbed to release spores into the air, which in turn spread to the fresher cheeses. After 60-70 days the wheels are washed and brushed with water and moved to another aging room where they’re washed occasionally to control mold growth until release.
Campos Góticos is sold in three versions: semi-cured (aged three months), cured (aged 7-8 months), and añejo (aged one year). Flavor transforms over time from sheepy and pungent when young to nuttier and more buttery, with notes of caramel. Paste becomes less oily and more crumbly, exhibiting small holes. Rind is orange-brown, with a basket pattern like that found on a Manchego.
Pair it with a glass of fino sherry or with a Rioja.