During the past week, I have attended two very important events related to the products of Spain. Sure, it was a whirlwind of shaking hands, networking, learning about wines that have recently been imported to the US, and receiving the 3000+ year history of Spanish cheese production in a 2 hour class. Despite all of the work, I am happy to report that both events were ridiculously fun.
On October 6, I attended Great Match, an event that brings Spanish winery representatives, importers, retailers, and consumers together for a day that begins with workshops and ends with tastings. This event is unique in that it highlights ALL wine-producing regions of Spain, rather than simply continuing to market already-famous varietals and bodegas.
Blanca gave a wonderful explanation of the history of Spanish cheese production, how Sephardic culture influenced Spanish cheese production, and reasons why many Spanish cheeses are not eligible for import to the US. Spanish cheese must be an interesting and exciting market to enter; in 1998, there were only 11 DOPs (cheese-producing regions protected by the Spanish government) and now there are 26.
Naturally, I asked Blanca where one can purchase Spanish cheeses in Chicago. My next project: to chat with the owners of these stores and maybe even observe purchasing patterns. I’d love to sell lesser-known cheeses (such as arzua ulloa from Galicia and gamonedo from Asturias) , but Blanca explained that many people here confuse Mexican manchego and Spanish manchego…it looks there’s some teaching to be done as well!