Do you know Asiago ?
Asiago, the town, is one of seven towns in the unique and gorgeous mountain range called Altopiano di Asiago. It is the widest plateau on a mountain in all of Europe and its level above the sea is, more or less, 1000 meters
Asiago is very elegant and never too crowded. It is so nice to visit here as you immediately feel as like temporary citizen rather than a tourist.
Summer is a very special season to visit Asiago and its Altopiano, because the very large and very green hills are full of several breeds of calm and happy cows. They arrive here in the first days of June coming from the valley where they spent the previous three seasons.
Now, finally, they are free to roam and be outdoors both day and night; those magical nights in the Altopiano di Asiago, where the brilliant sky is closer and closer !
The cows live in the malga, which means the farm and its surrounding pastures where the cows can eat the best grass and therefore produce the best milk, rich of aroma and flavour. From this milk the cheese makers who live in the malga during the summer, make the cheese named Asiago. Asiago is a DOP cheese and it is available in few different typical versions.
When it is fresh, meaning that it has been aged not longer than 1 month, it is called fresco or pressato. Besides having a wonderful flavour when fresh, the cheese was originally sold fresh so that the farmers and cheese makers could earn some money early in the cycle.
When the Asiago is more or less six months old its name becomes mezzano.
And then ? And then, listen, we are heading towards the excellence of this DOP cheese as we are now talking about the two most important versions of Asiago: vecchio and stravecchio.
Vecchio means old and is aged for a period of 12 months. Stravecchio means very old and is aged for of 24 months. The flavour of the cheese changes a lot depending on its age. When it is Asiago fresco, the best ways to taste it is cut it into cubes and eat it out of hand or use to flavour a fresh seasonal salad. It is delicious melted onto grilled bread or in a roasted pasta dish, even over fried eggs. The older versions of Asiago are at their best served with condiments on a plateau, perhaps with slices of speck.
Anyway, let’s come back to talk about the life in the malga and let’s understand better which is the difference in flavours between Asiago cheese made using the fresh milk, daily obtained by the cows which spend their days slowly walking and eating the best fresh grass and Asiago cheese made from milk of cows which spend their boring days indoor eating hay. When you taste, in a guided way, these two different cheeses, you will choose and appreciate quite better the first kind of cheese. That’s why there is a further label for these two particular types of cheese. Both are named “di malga” and, according to the official labels, one is named “vecchio” when it was made in the summer of the past year, and the other one is named “stravecchio” when it was made in the summer of two years ago.
In normal distribution it is very hard that you will find these two kinds of “Asiago di malga”.
You will find and enjoy the other Asiagos, anyway, very delicious and unique. So, why not plan a trip to the Altopiano di Asiago so that you will enjoy this magical place and you will visit several malghe and taste their aged cheese made in the previous summers.
Oh, but not yet have we talked about the match of Asiago DOP with wine. Well, let’s say that there are several well done and well known matches: here are a few of them.
With the Asiago fresco, you will thank me after you follow my suggestion to match with a great white wine, the Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG.
Let’s match Asiago mezzano with a pink wine; I suggest an elegant and genuine Biferno Rosato DOC.
With the aged Asiago we search and find a few red wines: Valpolicella DOC, Cabernet dei Colli Berici DOC, Colli del Trasimeno Rosso DOC and Solopaca Rosso DOC.
And I think these are very good matches.
But, but, but . . . .
The Altopiano di Asiago is in Veneto and in the eastern part of Veneto there is a territory whose vocation is an unique sparkling wine, famous in the world: Prosecco di Conegliano e Valdobbiadene DOC.
In a recent past someone had the funky idea to marry Asiago fresco and Asiago mezzano with the two versions of Prosecco di Conegliano e Valdobbiadene DOC: the brut and the extra dry. The results are very good, especially between the Asiago mezzano and the Prosecco extra dry.
Do you know Asiago better now ?
I hope yes !
Wow! I think you are the first person who actually knows what they are talking about in regard to Asiago and cheese. Bravo! My husband and I have been selling DOP Asiago and about 10 other cheeses from Monti Trentini in Grigno. It has been a major undertaking with education being a primary goal. We started this because the Asiago cheeses were so terrible in The US. The fresh cheese or pressato had no holes and tasted like nothing because it was sent to the US without any aging and it never reached its potential. Ours is the best available in the US because of the milk primarily and how it is treated secondly. The commitment to quality is well known in the industry but unfortunately distributors want cheap hoping the consumer won't notice. We think everyone does notice the better quality, taste and texture of a great product. Hope you get the chance to visit Asiago and tast the great cheeses from the region.