Unless you have traveled to Italy or parts of Europe recently, you likely have not tasted Collina Veneta. Only last week were we able to first savor this new arrival to the United States. We were quite pleased to receive inventory from this first shipment.

Collina Veneta is a pasteurized cow’s milk cheese made from whole milk. It weighs about twenty five to twenty eight pounds, with a hard Parmigiano Reggiano-style rind. Also similar to Parmigiano Reggiano, this cheese is a blend of evening milk and fresh morning milk, is semi-hard and can be crumbly in nature, depending on its age. Collina Veneta can be described as having a crisp sharp taste, but also that of a mountain cheese – sweet, with a pleasant aroma reminiscent of a quality Asiago or aged Piave Vecchio.

We owe thanks to the skills of Mastro Casaro for creating this wonderful new cheese, which won the award of Grolla d’Oro (Best Cheese in Italy) in 2010.

Collina Veneta was created in August of 1966 by a cooperative called Caseificio San Rocco, found in the province of Vicenza, which borders Padua and Treviso. The goal was to combine skills and knowledge to provide a healthy and genuinely natural product that could earn them a little profit for their efforts. The co-op now produces over eight times the amount of cheese than when they started.

Caseificio San Rocco is also responsible for making many other fine cheeses. Many among them, like San Rocco, LaFontella and Rigatello, have been awarded gold medals in both Regional and National competitions. In addition to aged cheeses, the co-op also produces many fresh cheeses such as Caciotta, Stracchino, Tosella and Ricotta. And let us not forget two very important and-well known varietals – PDO Grana Padano and PDO fresh and aged Asiago.

Although these cheeses are primarily found locally in Italy, the co-op employees have been instrumental in not only growing distribution within the country, but spreading their wings into Europe and now the United States. We are surprised that it took this long.

In just the short time we have begun to carry this cheese, we have all grown quite fond of it. Collina Veneta is very versatile and makes for a great grating cheese, just like Parmigiana Reggiano or Grana Padano. It also works as a great appetizer or snacking cheese. If you add a little Acacia Honey, also from Italy, you have a wonderful dessert. You may have difficulty in finding this cheese at first but don’t give up. It will be well worth the effort.

In my last two columns in Ink Magazine, we discussed the Twelve Families of Cheese. With its basic characteristic of being well-aged, taking perhaps years to fully develop, this cheese naturally places in the hard cheese family (you can refer to my two articles on the twelve cheese families on my blog at www.cheeseshopofcenterbrook.com/blog). Other characteristics of Collina Veneta that place it in the hard cheese family are the facts that it is also generally pressed and salted, and it can also take months before one begins to taste a difference in the developing cheese.

Parmigiana Reggiano, Asiago and Piave Vecchio lovers now have a new cheese to savor and enjoy.

I would be remiss if I did not mention and thank Karl Berthold from San Rocco, who was a great help in supplying information and inciting me to write this article.

Introducing Award-Winning Collina Veneta