Buttery cheese from Queijaria Monte da Vinha, in Vimieiro (Alentejo), 70 grams, was awarded the gold category at the World Cheese Awards, which took place in Bergamo, Italy, last weekend. This 100% artisanal product – consisting only of raw sheep’s milk, salt, and thistle – was chosen blindly, among 3804 cheeses from 42 countries on six continents, being the only Portuguese cheese distinguished, among other Portuguese in competition.
A jury of more than 300 members – including experts, experts, and food critics – tasted nearly 4,000 cheeses in two days, concentrated on 84 tables. “When I realized that my cheese was the only one with the ‘Gold’ distinction on the table, I was very moved,” confesses Joana Garcia, the founder of this cheese factory with a 100% female team, which has been leading since 2004.
For the former lawyer, who changed her life 15 years ago, the secret of her sheep cheese lies essentially in passion and respect for the product. “This is extremely pure, without any additives. The raw material, the raw sheep’s milk, has to be of the highest quality and we use thistle, a vegetable coagulant. Curing is another key element. humidity, ventilation, and temperature that try to replicate the ideal conditions in the spring, “says the businesswoman.
This is why we can find these artisanal cheeses in TAP’s Business Class, and in renowned restaurants such as Tasca da Esquina, by chef Vitor Sobral, Tapisco, by Henrique Sá Pessoa, the classic Fialho, in Évora, among many others. Currently, Monte da Vinha Cheese, which is open all year round, produces about one thousand cheeses per week, exporting about 20% of its production.