Eight EU cheeses to fill your plate

Whether cut into cubes or melted over meals, many of our favourite varieties of cheese are protected by EU quality labels.

Neufchâtel PDO from Normandy, France, one of the more than 200 varieties of cheese protected by the EU.

More than 200 varieties of cheese are protected in the EU. These cheeses and other unique foods and flavours from across Europe are protected through quality labels. The labels safeguard the names of products that are closely linked with specific regions and traditional production processes.

protected designation of origins (PDO): the raw ingredients need to come from the region of origin, where all steps of production must also take place.

protected geographical indications (PGI): at least one of the stages of production, processing or preparation must take place in the region.

geographical indication of spirit drinks and aromatised wines (GI): the product’s particular quality, reputation or other characteristic must be essentially attributable to its geographical origin.

To give you a taste of what the EU has to offer, we have assembled a platter of eight protected cheeses. Bon appetite!

1. Feta PDO, Greece

Produced from the milk of sheep and goats who graze upon the unique flora of the rugged Greek countryside, Feta PDO is a cheese of mythical status.

A primitive form of feta is mentioned in an episode of Homer’s Odyssey, in which the hero Odysseus takes the cheese made by the cyclops Polyphemus whilst escaping from his cave.

Today, Feta PDO accounts for roughly 10% of Greek food exports, a testament to its enduring reputation.

2. Jihočeská Niva PGI, Czechia

Salty and pungent, with a sharp finish, Jihočeská Niva PGI is produced in the sparsely populated southern Bohemia region of Czechia. Amongst the unspoilt forests of Český Krumlov and the Šumava hills (declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1990), meadows and pastures are hydrated by fresh flows of water and burst with a rich diversity of flora and fauna. Made from cow’s milk, the inside of the cheese is off-white to cream in colour, with a bluish-green marbling.

3. Gouda Holland PGI and Noord-Hollandse Gouda PDO, the Netherlands

A trip to the Dutch city of Gouda is not complete without a visit to the world-famous cheese market, which first took place in the 14th century. There you will find traders making deals over wheels of Gouda Holland PGI and Noord-Hollandse Gouda PDO, stacked high in front of Gouda’s City Hall. These rich, nutty cheeses are produced in the maritime climate of the Netherlands, where waves of rich green grass grow on a bed of sandy soils.

4. Telemea de Sibiu PGI, Romania

Originating from the fabled region of Transylvania, the secrets of Telemea de Sibiu PGI are held by baci (shepherds in charge of cheese making). Baci oversee the entire process, using traditional tools and techniques to transform the fresh, unpasteurised sheep’s milk into creamy-white blocks of cheese, steeped in the aromas of wild grasses and flowers.

5. Paški sir PDO, Croatia

Paški sir PDO is produced on the Croatian island of Pag in the Adriatic sea, which is dominated by a rugged karst landscape. The cheese is made from the milk of Pag sheep, a local breed that survives on the scarce vegetation of aromatic and medicinal plants that grow on rocky pastures. In order to mature the cheese in the humid Mediterranean climate, producers wash and coat the cheese with olive oil, creating a smooth, hard rind that varies in colour from golden yellow to pale reddish-brown.

6. Comté PDO, France

Produced in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region of France since the 13th century, the golden ivory colours of Comté PDO hold a rich blend of aromas. The milk used for this famous variety of hard cheese comes from two local cattle breeds: Montbéliarde and Pie rouge de l’Est. The cheese is produced by “fruitières”, groups of farmers and cheese-makers who come together on a cooperative basis to share their work and produce.

7. Mozzarella di Bufala Campana PDO, Italy

The unique flavours of Mozzarella di Bufala Campana PDO come from the milk of water buffalo, whose diet is drawn from the volcanic plains of South-Central Italy. Once the milk of the water buffalo has been collected, farmers have only 60 hours to begin the cheese-making process. After being carefully curdled, the cheese is placed in cold water and then immersed in brine. During this process, a thin crust forms around the cheese, encasing its soft and creamy core.

8. Allgäuer Bergkäse PDO, Germany

In the Allgaü region of Germany, cows graze upon lush mountain pastures in the foothills of the Alps. Their milk, imbued with alpine aromas, has been used to produce Allgäuer Bergkäse PDO since the 19th century. Production began with Swiss Alpine shepherds, who brought cheese-making techniques from their homeland and applied them to the local bergkäse (mountain cheese) of the region.

“You are what you eat” is a saying that certainly speaks to us in the EU. Our food and drink define who we are, from the farmers and producers who carefully cultivate our favourite products, to the friends and family with whom we gather for meals.

It also reflects the continent’s cultural diversity and rich lands.

Enjoy the list of foods from across European countries that are protected by the geographical indication schemes.

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