Roncal is made from the rich sheep's milk of the legendary Latxa and Aragonesa breeds of oveja sheep in northern Spain. Depending on the season, these herds graze in the high Pyrenées or the Bardena area of Navarra, the province that was the setting for Ernest Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises."
Roncal is made in one of seven villages in the Valle de Roncal in northeastern Navarra, bordering Basque Country. Cheeses are uncooked and pressed and are aged for a minimum of four months. The best time for consumption of Roncal is November to July, when the cheeses reach their peak.
The rind ranges from straw-color to reddish brown and is spotted with gray mold. The interior paste is ivory to light yellow in color, with small holes and the occasional fissure or slit. Similar to some other fine, hard, French or Swiss mountain cheeses, Roncal will often glisten with some oil or butterfat.
With a firm, meaty texture, Roncal has a nutty and slightly tart flavor, with some savory, vegetal notes and an aroma of hay at certain times of the year.