If you’ve tried Spanish cheese, then you’ve most likely met Manchego, the star of many a tapas spread. Made from exclusively sheep’s milk—and from only Manchega sheep—Manchego is distinct in its sharp, lingering flavor. But it’s recognizable for more than its flavor.
Manchego’s appearance is just as iconic: a dark brown rind imprinted with a plaited pattern. This is because, historically, Manchego was made in woven grass baskets that left their mark on the cheese. While these days, plastic molds are used instead, the iconic herringbone design remains.
Still, if you head to the cheese counter in search of Spanish cheese and pick out the one with the prettiest plaited rind, it might not be Manchego. Throughout the country, and across the ocean, a few other cheeses follow similar rind traditions.
If you like Manchego, you’ll surely be pleased with these picks—plus, they’ll look just as good on your next board.
To most eyes, one might think Manchego. After all, Zamorano is a Spanish cheese with a brown, basketweave rind and a firm ivory paste. It’s common confusion: The two cheeses are so similar, in fact, that Zamorano was considered Manchego for a long time. This lasted until 1985, when PDO standards for Manchego were changed to include only milk from Manchega sheep in the La Mancha region.
So instead, we get Zamorano. Like Manchego, Zamorano is also a PDO cheese. Produced in the Zamora region of northwest Spain, this sheep’s milk cheese is made using the milk of only Churra and Castellana sheep, giving it a distinct sheepy aroma and flavor. Those notes of lanolin and nuts are balanced by a pleasant fruity sweetness.
Campo de Montalban
Campo de Montalban takes some cues from Manchego, but puts its own spin on the classic. (Like Zamorano, it was also considered Manchego until 1985.) Similarly patterned and dark brown in color, Campo de Montalban sports a bold chevron design on its rind, but with a pretty hint of olive—making it a perfect pick for a large format cheese plate.
Inside, Campo de Montalban also veers off Manchego’s track. Cow’s and goat’s milk are added to the mix, giving this flavor bomb of a cheese the best qualities of all three types of milk. The result is rich and buttery with notes of nuts and acid.
This award-winning American original draws inspiration from classic Spanish cheeses, but the expert cheesemakers at Roth take some liberties. Unlike Manchego, for example, GranQueso is made with cow’s milk. Like the original, though, it’s drained in baskets to give the wheels the traditional rind pattern.
While it’s made with cow’s milk, GranQueso has that robust, sharp, full-bodied flavor we’ve come to love from Manchego. But it’s amped up: The wheels are hand-rubbed with a cinnamon, paprika spice blend that harkens back to those Spanish and Portuguese flavors.