WHERE AND WHAT EXACTLY IS PIAVE DOP?
The Piave region is clearly, and unequivocally its own region, with its very own approach to cheese making. Nothing else could be expected of course, from a cheese that represents the natural ebbing and flowing of a river integral to this Italian region, the Veneto region. Representative of the endless passage of time, the Piave name is also a fundamental part of Italian history.
This enchanting part of Italy is presided over by the peaks of the Dolomite mountains, the most captivating and fascinating Alpine mountain segments. The region’s cold winter climate and cool summertime weather have helped shape the character of the region’s residents. Here, we meet a population largely defined by their quiet natures and strong ambitions, infinitely proud of the traditions that have been passed on through families for generations and hopefully, generations to come.
We are in the province of Belluno, in the northernmost part of the Veneto region. This is where Piave is born and produced. Local Piave production is built on the experiences of the area’s community or social dairies, where famers and herders would bring their milk to a single dairy in order to produce butter and fresh cheeses for the community in its whole. With the direct farm to dairy production chain, the resulting products were permeated with the unmistakable aromas of freshly-collected milk. From here, history continues with the development of cooked curd cheese crafted with a short aging time.
PIAVE DOP TODAY
In modern times, we find a falling-back onto history approach in the world of contemporary cheese making. Producers today are making the most of the region’s famous “malghe,” or a clutch of timeworn mountain-top cabins (called malghe or maiolere in Italian and local dialect) and incorporating these historic structures into the local narrative surrounding dairy and local cheese production history.
Piave cheese acquired DOP status in 2010, catapulting the cheese from a locally-beloved product into national markets and onto the plates of Italian cheese lovers throughout the country.
Piave DOP cheese, following strict production regulations, is produced exclusively with cow’s milk originating on the farms within the Belluno valleys. The cheese is crafted with cooked curd, and is sold in a range of five different aging variations, beginning from the Fresh cheese aged for 20 days all the way through to the Piave DOP Vecchia Riserva, which ages for a minimum of 18 months.
Once again, following the strictest production regulations, Piave cheese is always cylindrical in shape, with a rind ranging in colors from light to ochre, relative to the aging length.
In the youngest version of this Northern Italian cheese, its curd is very compact and light. The longer the cheese ages, the more the color varies from light to a more intense, straw-yellow hue as time passes.
Should the cheese continue the aging process, and is of course, preserved correctly, Piave becomes more crumbly and ideal for grating.
Piave DOP cheese are nutritional as well, as should be the case for cheeses made with fresh milk. This genuine product is eabsy to digest, features a great balance of natural ingredients like fresh milk, milk enzymes, rennet and salt, and leaves a most satisfying flavor experience to cheese lovers who select the Piave DOP cheese option.
Piave DOP consistently proves itself as an excellent addition to any cheese platter, and works wonderfully in a variety of recipes calling for cooked cheeses. In fact, a specialty dish is the finger-licking "formai frit,” with fried Piave cheese served with a selection of corn-based polenta and zesty sauerkraut. A quick Piave tip: simply grate it on top of your preferred dish, and bring new structure to your meal.
THE VARIOUS AGINGS OF PIAVE DOP
Looking back at Piave’s different ages of cheeses, it’s important to note that the aging process is made possible thanks to the region’s unique organoleptic properties governing the lands.
Starting from youngest to oldest, let’s explore the five different Piave DOP selections and see which ones strike your fancy today.
- Piave DOP Fresco features an aging process ranging between 20 days - 2 months. A clean, defined lactic flavor is notable, and the cheese is dominated by sweet, buttery notes.
- Piave DOP Mezzano ages between 61 - 180 days. Thanks to the longer aging process, the color is notably darker and more intense. Upon first tasting, a milky flavor is immediately present, but the structure is definitely more dynamic and articulated, with clear grassy pasture and herbaceous aromas present.
- Piave DOP Vecchio is left to age for over 180 days. This longer aging time leads to a hard cheese texture with a defined cooked curd that is compact and crumbles well. The flavors of Mezzano are strongly aromatic yet never spicy. We can find notes of ripe fruit and complexity throughout the cheese.
- Piave DOP Vecchio Selezione Oro is the second-oldest aged Piave cheese, with over 12 months of aging time. The color of this selection is a vibrant straw-yellow, and the curd is grainy and crumbles perfectly. The cheese is marked by a definite fruity flavor that’s both full and intense but balanced with a sweetness that reflects the aging process and is completely absent from any spiciness.
- Piave DOP Vecchio Riserva is the oldest of the Piave aged cheese, with an aging time of over 18 months. The selection process for this cheese selection is quite limited, so supply reflects the production process. Featuring a straw-yellow hue, the curd very gently tends to flake. Piave Riserva is a harmonious cheese, devoid of edges or excessive saltiness, and features a satisfying milky flavor that recalls the cheeses’ origins amongst grassy pastures and wildflowers.
We know there’s so much to discover within Italy’s world of gastronomic delights. If you’ve loved learning more about the Piave DOP cheese ranges, be sure to check out some other authentic Italian delights of the wine world - get started with Filippo Bartolotta’s exploration of the Montalcino wine region for a different approach to exploring the Italian territory. To learn more about the Piave DOP Consorzio’s role as promoter par excellence of the Piave DOP cheese name in the world, head to the Consorzio’s page for loads more info. Eager to start cooking and enjoying this cheese? Be sure to check out the Mamablip recipes featuring the Piave DOP cheeses, with all different aging styles represented in an array of tasty and easy preparations to delight your palates.
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