Challenges of Mountain Living Threaten the Future of Heritage Italian Cheese
It makes sense that local terroir influences the unique flavors of milk from a particular area. That's why some cheeses can only be made at particular times of year, or in certain remote regions - like bra d'alpeggio or Formai de Mut dell'Alta Valle Brembana, from the Italian Alps.
While long-held tradition dictates the practice of herding cows far from the homestead during the summer months, it is also the promise of subtle but distinct flavors in their milk, which only emerge through mountainside grazing. For the next generation of Italian cheesemakers though, the modern-day challenges of mountain life have proven too great, forcing many to relocate to more populated areas. "If there's no one left in the mountains to raise the cows and make the cheese, we risk losing an important product," says Giovanna Contarini, a food chemist who is working to preserve the heritage of Italian mountain cheeses.
Herding cattle up the side of a mountain might seem like a lot of extra work, but for thousands of years, people have hauled their cows into the Alps to graze during the summer months. Why? It's all about great-tasting cheese.