From the tiny village of AzeitÃ£o (Ah-zhey-TONE) just south of Lisbon, the eponymous cheese is one that I have admired for years. Its soft unctuous texture and its nutty olive oil flavor makes for an inviting gateway to the diversity of thistle-renneted cheeses of Iberia. AzeitÃ£o appeared in my first book â€“ The Cheese Plate â€“ in the all-sheep plate. The ode that I wrote to it in my latest book â€“ Mastering Cheese â€“ had to be edited down; the tribute I wrote to it was just short of â€œXâ€ rated.
AzeitÃ£o is a particularly sexy cheese, being made with sheep milk helps. Because it is produced in a relatively small format makes it a perfect cheese for sharing with your significant other, though as I mention in that ode, you can enjoy it all by yourself. Likely you canâ€™t quite finish it in one setting however, not even two persons, it is so full of great nutrients: protein and amino acids, good butterfats and conjugated linoleic acid, vitamins and minerals.
Just last night we had this cheese in a Cheese & Wine 101 class here at the Center. We tasted it against a Muscadet, a Prieto Picudo and a Primitivo. I enjoyed the cheese with all three of the wines, but the clear favorite for most everyone was the Primitivo. The AzeitÃ£o has way of taming the medium tannins in many red wines, the more rustic types and the more elegant styles. In my second book â€“ Cheese, a Connoisseurâ€™s Guide to the Worldâ€™s Best â€“ the AzeitÃ£o is highlighted and several varietals are recommended as good pairing partners, Zinfandel (a descendant of Primitivo) is listed.