Receiving a strong culinary influence from not just the Spanish but also the French and Italian, cheese from Argentina portrays its roots well within its own hand crafted local cheese production. In the years set forth by Argentina's independence, a large number of Italian immigrants have either settled permanently or work seasonally within the dairy, cheese and wine industries bringing with them a rich cultural heritage of culinary tradition.
There are two distinct paradigms of cheeses from Argentina that are in a league of their own- Sardo and Reggianito. The younger, less complex Sardo is a firm hard grated cheese made out of cow’s milk which is similar to both Italian and Pecorino Romano. It compels a taste that is not overwhelming layered, rather hearty and slightly salty. Individually grating by the chunk is usually the best option to serve Sardo when considering a fresh salad preparation or a light fare such as soup, steamed vegetables or starches such as a baked potato. Sardo is crafted by the congealing of small animal rennet- which is a enzyme used for breaking down maternal milk. The animal rennet in this case mainly comes from baby calves.
The ideal aging time of Sardo is approximately 90 days, although it it possible to age longer and still retain quality. If bought in excess of 90 days aged, expect a light crisp with enhanced flavors of the saltiness tone. Given its hearty nature, a crisp Oregon Pinot Grigio or a fulfilling buttery oaked chardonnay would pair best with this caliber of cheese. Overall, Sardo retains less than 40% fat, making it relatively light. Sardo can best be used on thin, crispy piazza with meat compliments such as bacon and seared ham. When melted by way of baking, consider a wheat crust as a melted creamy Sardo compliments well with the toasty flavor of crispy wheat, as do crisp white wines.
Reggianito, or little Reggiano, is also a hard grated cow's milk cheese and is one of the most exported cheeses from Argentina. In comparison to its Italian counterpart, Parmigiano Reggiano, Reggianito is produced in much smaller sizes. Its creamy and salty in flavor and is produced in a 15 lb. wheel rather than its predecessor, the gargantuan 80lb Parmesan Reggiano drum. However, unlike Reggiano, the salt does not become crystallized thus producing a grainy texture when grated or broken up.
Free range pasture cows are the primary source of Reggianito. It is generally aged over six months, giving it extra maturity over Sardo. It is in fact cured longer than any other South American hard cheese, giving it a rich, undeniably copious flavor. For this reason, a medium body Napa Valley Cabernet, mature oaked Sangiovesse or a decadent Chianti would pair exquisitely not just with Reggianito spread on a rich pasta dish, but also in chunks. Sampling Reggianito by the chuck with wine is a great experience because it requires no bread or crackers to be delightful. Unlike the Sardo which may complement more crisp type flavors of meat and wheat, Reggianito soothes and becomes creamy when heated and especially pairs well with bow tie pasta and alfredo.