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Spain's Top 10

Simple...a series of lists rating Spain's top 10 in anything and everything...they may be lists compiled by independent reviewers or by myself....whichever, I hope you find them useful :-)

SPAIN'S Top 10 - Cheeses
20 August 2014

Of the more than 100 different cheeses produced in Spain, 27 are protected by the "Denominación de Origen Protegida" (D.O.P.) label. In English the most widely used expression which means the same is the description "D.O.". Several others are waiting for this status to be granted to them by the Ministry of Agriculture. 

All varieties of cheeses are represented: from fresh to extra cured; coagulated with the help of enzymes, lactic acid or a mixture of both; of diverse sizes and shapes; with rinds of various colors, engraved with splendid designs and patterns, covered with a mold, smoked, spiced or rubbed with oil. 

Spanish cheese-makers use three types of milk: from sheep, cows and goats. Blends of these milks are also used to produce their cheeses. This great variety of cheese comes as a result of climatic and geographical differences and from farming customs steeped in age-old traditions. You will find in this pages all of the most important characteristics of all D.O.P. cheeses, as well as those of the most representative cheeses of each category: sheeps’s milk cheese, cow's milk cheese and goat's milk cheese in addition to various blends and blue cheese, in a sampling of our enormous cheese heritage, which is a reserve of our culture and traditions, and places us among the most important cheese-producing countries in the world. Here are the top 10:

1. Queso Manchego

The Manchego is produced in the La Mancha region of Spain, which is also home to Don Quixote. It is made from unpasteurized sheep's milk. It is one of the popular cheeses from Spain, made from sheep's milk. It also comes under the PDO guidelines.

The traditional use of grass moulds leaves a distinctive, characteristic zigzag pattern on the Manchego cheese. Authentic Manchego is only made from the Manchego sheep's milk. Manchego cheese is made from both pasteurized and unpasteurized milk. The farmhouse version is produced from unpasteurized milk while the industrial version is made from pasteurized milk.

The rind is inedible with a distinctive, traditional herringbone basket weave pattern, pressed on it. A typical ear wheat pattern is pressed onto the top and bottom wheels of the cheese. There are specific differences in Manchego cheeses, depending on their aging period.

Semi Curado - Young Manchego cheese is aged around 3 months are supple and moist. The flavor is fruity, grass, hay with a tangy note.

Curado - Manchego cheese aged for 6 months acquires a caramel and nutty flavor. It has distinct acidity.

Viejo - Manchego cheese aged for a year becomes crumbly in texture while the interior of the cheese acquires a butterscotch color. It has a sweet, lingering taste.

Manchego cheeses are best paired with a sherry. Cheeses similar to Manchego are called 'Machego like cheeses', but the producers cannot legally name the cheese as Manchego.

2. Queso Cabrales

Cabrales, also known as Quesu Cabrales, Queso de Cabrales or Cabraliego, is a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) awarded, Spanish semi-hard, fatty blue cheese, prepared within the administrative region of Cabrales Council and some towns in the Upper Peñamerella region. Both these areas are located at the foot of the Picos de Europa Mountains in Asturias.

The cheese is a mixture of raw cows, goats and sheep's milk aged for between two and four months in natural formed limestone caves. Chilly and humid conditions in the caves facilitate the growth of bluish-green penicillium mould on this highly prized cheese. Unlike other blue cheeses injected with penicillium, Cabrales cures from the outside of the cheese to the inward.
A finished Cabrales can be characterized by its strong, penetrating aroma and sharp, acidic, slightly salty taste. It pairs well with red wine, fresh figs, salami, sweet sherry and dry sausages. The cheese is treasured as a base for sauces, for melting over grilled or roasted meats and goes well along with baguette slices, crackers, or fruit.

Earlier, a traditional Cabrales was sold wrapped in moist leaves of Acer pseudoplatanus. But today regulation requires the cheese be sold in a dark-green-colored aluminum foil with the stamp of the PDO Queso de Cabrales. Careful because when you leave the cheese for too long you get small white worms coming out of it, but this doesn't stop some eating it!

3. Queso Torta del Casar

Torta del Casar PDO is a Spanish cheese made from raw sheep’s milk in the Extremadura region, near the Portuguese border. Named after Casar de Cáceres, its city of origin, the shepherds who made the cheese used to call it ‘atortao’ because it was shaped like a cake or ‘torta’. Torta del Casar is a very rare cheese since it is made from milk of Merino and Entrefina sheep that yield very low milk and it takes a herd of sheep to make 1 kg of the cheese.

Torta del Casar is a vegetarian produce coagulated with cardoon, a wild thistle which adds a slightly bitter note to the rich and slightly salty tasting cheese. The cheese is aged for at least 60 days upon which it develops a semi-hard, yellow to ochre crust and a soft, spreadable, creamy, almost runnier paste. Its insides are yellowish in color and the aroma very unique. Torta del Casar should be enjoyed as an appetizer or a dessert, spread on bread with a glass of dry, red wine.

4. Queso de Valdeón

Valdeon, is a Spanish blue cheese produced in Valdeon Valley of Castile-Leon region of the northwestern Spain. Made all year round with cow or goat’s milk or a mixture of both, the cheese has very dense blue veining and comes wrapped in maple or chestnut leaves. Since leaf wrapping is no more allowed these days, it comes wrapped in leaf printed aluminum foil. Queso di Valdeon has been awarded a status of Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) to regulate the production, processing and preparation of the cheese. In 2005, the the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food granted the cheese an award for best Blue Veined Spanish Cheese.

A bold and salty cheese, Valdeon uniqueness lies in its manufacturing process, which includes long and traditional maturing in the cold, damp cellars until the cheese reaches a mature or medium mature age. The pate of Valdeon has a soft, granular texture and pale yellow color and is full of small cavities filled with blue moulds. Covered by a coarse, inconsistent rind in dark grey shades with little red marks, Valdeon is very strong and spicy in taste similar to Roquefort. A powerful smelling cheese, Valendon greasy, buttery paste is perfect for preparing any kind of blue cheese sauce. The rich smell of the cheese makes a good company with fresh fruit and strong red wine or sherry.

5. Queso Gamoneu

Gamoneu or Gamonedo is a Spanish PDO cheese produced from a blend of cows, sheep's and goat's milk. Originating in the high altitude areas of Asturias, there are two varieties of the cheese depending on the location where it is made and seasonal production. Gamoneu made from June to September in the cabins of Los Picos de Europa and Cangas de Onis is called Gamonéu del Puerto. On the other hand, Gamonéu del Valle is made in small dairies in the lower areas of both these councils all year long.

Gamonéu is a fatty cheese with a yellowish-whitish pate and greenish-bluish Penicilliun outcrops on the edges. Its thin rind is a distinctive sienna colour acquired during the smoking process. Texturally, Gamonéu is hard or semi-hard, firm and friable with small, irregular eyes scattered spread throughout the pate. The taste is slightly spicy and smoky with a buttery, nutty persistent aftertaste. Its aroma is clean with soft hints of smoke that intensify with maturation.

6. Queso Idiazábal

Idiazabal is a traditional, farmhouse, hard cheese made from raw milk of Latxa or Carranza sheep in the Basque and Navarra regions of northern Spain. Named after the village of Idiazabal, the cheese received Spanish D.O. (Denominacion de Origen) in 1987.

In summer, the sheep migrate to higher pastures to graze on the blossoming, new grass. During this time, the artisanal cheesemakers milk the sheep, make the cheese and leave it in the rafters to mature. At the end of summer when the cheesemakers return back to the lowlands with their sheep, the cheese has ripened and is ready for sale.

Idiazabal is produced in the shape of a cylinder, with a smooth and hard natural rind that is pale yellow to amber in color. The cheese has a compact texture, with a few pinprick holes. It is dry, but not crumbly, and feels pleasantly oily in the mouth. The rind carries the marks of the wooden moulds in which it was drained. The characteristic, smoky flavor is the result of the cheeses having been stored near the fireplaces. There were no chimneys in the simple mountain huts, so the cheeses absorbed the sweet, aromatic smoke. The taste of the cheese is reminiscent of burnt caramel and bacon. It pairs well with red wine and cider.

7. Queso Tetilla

Tetilla is a typical Galician cheese made from the herd of Friesians, Alpine Browns and Rubia Gallega cows. Since 1992, it has been one of the four cheeses that received DOP recognition. The name Tetilla is Galician for “small breast”, which describes the shape of the cheese – a pear shaped cone topped by a nipple.

This cheese has a pale yellow, thin, natural rind or sometimes no rind can be seen at all. Its texture is soft, thick and smooth with scatterings of air pockets. Yellowish ivory in color Tetilla has a creamy mouth feel with buttery, slightly bitter and tangy flavors surrounding the palate. The maturing, which takes place between 10 and 30 days, happens in the hot and humid climate of Galicia.

Try Tetilla with dry full-bodied wine, sherry, young whites, manzanilla and especially the Galician whites - albariño or ribeiro. Spanish love their cheese with quince paste, fruit, crackers, baked dishes and bread.

8. Queso de La Peral

La Peral is a gently blued pasteurized cow and sheep milk cheese from Asturias in northern Spain. This rare and delicious cheese has been produced for a little over a century. The sheep milk component gives this firm cheese a little olive oil flavor and a pleasant pungent aroma. Also known as Queso Azul Asturiano, La Peral is made by the Lopez Leon family. The wheels are aged for sixty days just to the point that the blue begins to develop. La Peral resembles an Italian Gorgonzola. It has a slightly crumbly texture that leads to a refreshing finish on the palate. Along with other bigger wines, we recommend that you try pairing this outstanding blue cheese with Tempranillos, Cabernet Sauvignons, Gamays, Ports or Spanish dessert wines.

9. Queso de Los Beyos

Los Beyos is one of our specialty cheeses from Asturias, aged for 2 months and made from pasteurized cow`s milk. Los Beyos is truly an artisanal beauty produced in the mountains of Amieva. It takes its name from "el desfiladero de los Beyos". This place is a beautiful but extremely narrow and curvy mountainous area in Asturias that follows through into Castilla-Leon. There is a constant debate as to which specific area in Asturias is where this cheese originated. Dense and compact. Rustic and artisan. We hope you find the texture and flavor as interesting and as much as a rollercoaster ride as we do. The cheese itself is drier and flakier, but still retains a cured and rich flavor with a sharpness that does not linger for very long. And good news! Los Beyos pairs just as nicely with a Martini as it will with Chardonnay and Tempranillo.

10. Queso Zamorano

Zamorano is a famous Spanish sheep’s milk cheese made in the region of Castile-Leon, Zamora. This hard cheese takes almost 6 months to mature fully. It has a pale-yellow color with crumbly texture and contains 45% fat.

Zamorano has  buttery and nutty taste, which is served as a table cheese with White, Red as well as Zinfandel wine. It gets characteristic flavor because of the breed of sheep – the small, scruffy Churra and the Castilian sheep.

Due to a distinctive zigzag pattern and cylindrical shape, Zamorano appears similar to Castellano or Manchego.

Like 3        Published at 21:09   Comments (9)

TOP 10 Beaches : Canary Islands
13 August 2014

The Canary Islands are renowned for their dramatic scenery and volcanic Landscapes which have brought thousands of tourists to their shores. They are some of the most visited islands by sunseekers from colder European climates. But how do you know which beach to head to? Here are the top 10 Canary Islands beaches waiting to be enjoyed.


Nº 1  - Playa de Maspalomas a Playa del Inglés (Gran Canaria)


Nº 2  - Las Dunas de Corralejo (Fuerteventura)


Nº 3 - Playa de las Canteras de Las Palmas (Gran Canaria)


Nº 4  - Playa de la Concha de El Cotillo (Fuerteventura)


Nº 5 - Playa de Sotavento / Jandía (Fuerteventura)


Nº 6 - Playa Las Conchas de Teguise (La Graciosa, Lanzarote)


Nº 7 - Playa de El Papagayo de Yaiza (Lanzarote)


Nº 8 - Charco de Los Clicos (Lanzarote)


Nº 9 -   Playa de Benijo de Santa Cruz de Tenerife (Tenerife)


Nº 10  -  Playa Nogales (La Palma)



Like 1        Published at 19:45   Comments (1)

SPAIN'S TOP 10 - Hikes
07 August 2014

Where would you like to do your walking? Are you dreaming of crossing Medieval bridges, Roman roads, magic valleys, walking along stone pathways on the bordering rivers, seeing castles or walking through vineyards? That’s no problem, Spain offers all this and much more. You don’t need to be a sports expert, hiking doesn’t require very much preparation and you can always choose from the various modalities (Long Distance, Short Distance, Local Paths, Urban Paths, Green Ways…) and difficulties available. Here are 10 of the best routes in Spain. Clearly this is not definitive as the list is endless but its a start....


1. Ruta del Cares : Poncebos to  Cain (Asturias y León)

It is without doubt the best known of all the routes in Picos de Europa. With a good pair of shoes and a light backpack this route can be walked without any problem from May through to October. However It is recommended not if possible, to avoid the route during the month of August to the large crowds that build up. 

Once parked at the beginning of the awl, you will then pass through a tunnel made of rock and take the path that leads off to the right. This is definitely the "hardest" part of the trail as it climbs a gentle slope to the top of the mountain. Once there, a gentle descent begins and then you reach the Cares Gorge. The way to Cain is easy to follow as it is very well marked and lined with precipices. After passing a series of bridges you will reach some caves carved out of rock and before you know it you will be in Cain (2h 30 m. from Poncebos). The timing is just an estimate as you will be passing some of the most beautiful views along the way, some will take more time to soak it all in. Once in Cain turn around and return along the same route.


2. Río Borosa (Andalucía)

This hiking route is deservedly the most popular in the Natural Park of Sierras de Cazorla, Segura and LasViñas (Jaén), which also means there's a good possibility of overcrowding on popular dates. The swift waters of the Borosa, the rocks in the riverbed and the riverbank vegetation, is one of the most spectacular river scenes in southern Spain. 


3. Monasterio de Piedra (Aragón)

Monesterio de Piedra Park is one of the most beautiful places in the province of Zaragoza. It offers a spectacular route where water rises in the form of stepped waterfalls and seeps through untold caves. 
It is an ideal place to enjoy nature and it is family-friendly environment. You can eat outdoors, there are tables and plenty of shade italso offers a restaurant and accommodation. Dogs on leads can enter the park, except in the area of birds of prey and the visit around the 12th century Cistercian monastery.


4. Ruta de las Médulas (Castilla y León)

The route of Las Medulas in Bierzo (León) is an amazing route that lets us see landscapes of extraordinary beauty. Along the route you will get to see Cornatel Castle, which is located on a limestone cliff, Lake Carucedo and eventually you will reach Las Medulas, a technological whorl of art excavated by the Romans in their search for gold. This landscape has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and cherished sites of Spain. 

5. Senda del oso (Asturias)

La Senda del Oso runs along the Trubia River valley, it is the second most popular active leisure routes in Asturias, after the universal Ruta del Cares (Nº1 in the list), and the only one that can compete in number of visitors to the divine gorge of the Picos de Europa. The river is born from the springs in El Puerto de la Ventana, a natural border with the Leonese region of Bahia, and descends between beech trees and limestone boulders to create a fabulous gorge where there is hardly any room for the river, the road and the route of the popular Senda del Oso is one of the most exciting initiatives available for active leisure in the area.

6. Las Islas Cíes (Galicia)

The islands of Ciés can be reached only by sea, by private boat or ferries: Cangas-Cies or Vigo-Baiona-Cies. Once on the island there are several hiking trails. All are well marked and in good condition. If you wish to be accompanied by experts, The National Park offers guides-interpreters specialised in  different guided tours, which are  free but have a maximum number of participants per route, which is normally between 10 and 15 depending on the route.

7. Laguna Grande de Gredos (Castilla y León)

A mythical road linking the Platform (parking) to the Laguna Grande in the Circo de Gredos. It is recommended that you wear high boots because of the cobbled and loose rock path. It is easy to see mountain goats, especially at sunset, when they come down to the river to drink.

8 . AigüesTortes y Lago San Mauricio (Cataluña)

 A truly breathtaking route through pine forests surrounded by the Pyrenean peaks, which ends in an impressive high mountain lake. The route begins in the car park called Prat de Pierró and  it has been prepared so literally it can be walked by anybody.

9. Por el Valle del Jerte (Extremadura)

There is a no better alternative to enjoying nature tourism than the hiking network of the Valle del Jerte. Discovering  the "cherry" Valley is an incomparable experience, especially when the trees are in blossom.

Hiking in the Valley of Jerte is a treat for all ages and physical conditions, different paths are classified into levels of difficulty and length, so that every visitor chooses the one that best suits their skills and preferences. The MIDE (Method of Excursion Information) is a system that has been created so that hikers can assess the technical aspects and physical demands of the trails. This system also classifies the difficulty of the route numbering them from 1 to 5. Hiking routes through El Valle del Jerte all have this system to provide quality information to hikers.


10. Ruta de los Cahorros (Andalucía)

Monachil is a town that is located just 8 kilometers to the southeast of Granada, in the south-central part of the region of the Vega of Granada. This is where  we find Los Cahorros, an amazing area ideal for hiking or rock climbing. 

It is incredible that this place is just a 15 minute drive from the Alhambra. In literally fifteen minutes you can be in an entirely different place, where peace and tranquility triumph over the traffic of the city. This makes it a good choice for a getaway from Granada, since you can leave in the morning, spend the whole day there and return to the city by night time.

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