Manchego is Spain's most famous cheese. Manchego is a DO, sheep's milk cheese produced in the La Mancha region in Central Spain. The cheese is named after the Manchega sheep, the only variety of milk used. It is most resembled by the herringbone pattern on the rind that was originally left behind by the tough grass esparto that was used for the pressing. Now this molding is made of plastic but retains a similar pattern. The cheeses are aged in natural caves and have different stages of maturation:
- "Fresco" - Aged 3 months with a pale ivory colored pate and a soft and fairly sweet flavor with sight salty undertones
- "Semicurado" - Aged 4 to 6 months with a texture that is beginning to firm up and the flavor is starting to intensify
- "Curado" - Aged more than 6 months (typically for 1 year), the cheese is now a hard cutting cheese
- "Anejo" - Aged for 12-24 months
The typical flavor components of this cheese are milky, salty, with a sheepy sweetness towards the finish. The younger versions are much more mild with a softer texture and the more aged versions are sharper and dryer.