Montegrana cheeses: travelling in Piedmont
The scent of cheese has sent our research team back on its way, this time with a stop in Monterosso Grana, in Piedmont. We are surrounded by the mountains of Val Grana, a valley that extends from the Cuneo plains to pastures over 2000 meters, in the heart of an area historically linked to pastoralism and cheesemaking. Here we met Fiandino, a family that has always been dedicated to cheese production.
The goal of our trip is to meet Davide Fiandino and visit for the first time his dairy where Montegrana cheeses are produced. We had already tasted a small sampling, but we settle down to taste them again, while Davide tells us the story of the company, which is also the story of his family.
It all started quite recently, in 2000, when dad Alfio and uncle Evanzio decided to start a cowshed. They only chose Brune cows that thanks to their genetics find their natural habitat in the mountain environment and in the pastures.
The initial objective was to guarantee the production of high quality milk, ensuring the welfare of the animals starting from the diet, consisting only of selected hay and noble cereals. But given the excellent quality obtained, Fiandino family decided to deal directly with the transformation, starting from only a few types of cheese. Following to the success of the first cheeses, the next step seemed already written, so the production of some great Piedmontese PDOs was also started: Raschera PDO, Toma Piemontese PDO and Bra Tenero PDO.
We move to the dairy where we observe all the stages of processing. Davide explains that the experience gained in breeding Bruna cows allows them to treat an exceptional milk that has a lot to say and that is why it is processed exclusively raw. “Milk is our fingerprint” - Davide says with pride - “and despite some difficulties it allows us to produce cheeses with a unique aromatic and organoleptic variety”.
We are amazed to see that the transformation is completely handmade. Despite the small dairy production we see four people at work and we notice the craftsmanship in every phase: the pressing does not happen mechanically but placing one wheel on top of the other. As well as the control of the weight that is made piece by piece, to obtain a homogeneous maturation for each production batch. Certainly the manual skills require much more time than a mechanized process, but on the other hand allows to have a constant control along the whole process.
“As long as I find people willing to stay here and work this way, I will continue on this path. It is our characteristic element! “ And these words convince us of the deep respect that Davide and his team have both for the raw material that they work, and for the cheese.
We conclude the visit in the aging cellar, renovated a few years ago with the aim of keeping the environment as natural as possible, channeling the water from a nearby source and making it flow inside the cave to maintain the right degree of humidity. We get caught up with a feeling of romance and we can not resist to take some pictures with the help of Beatrice Mancini, our photographer and friend who accompanied us on this trip!
With Davide we decide to select a slightly longer maturing, to better enhance the products even outside the production area, where they are usually consumed a bit younger.
A particular case is the Bra of Montegrana, which is considered as a mountain pasture because it is produced in the mountain area, above 600 meters, with raw milk.
At the end, one last surprise: even if it is not required and despite the fact that the cheese factory is small and does not make large productions, Davide decided to try to obtain two important certifications, IFS and BRC. These are certifica- tions of the agri-food system to improve organization and control in the production process.
We come home with a new partnership established, and three new products selected. Who knows the next wind of perfumes where will take us!