The world’s most expensive Spanish cheese: A culinary masterpiece from the Picos de Europa

by Lorraine Williamson
special cheese from Asturias
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In the craggy peaks of the Picos de Europa, a mountain range spanning Asturias and Cantabria lies the source of the world’s most expensive Cabrales cheese. Auctioned off last Sunday, this extraordinary product fetched a record-breaking €30,000. 

The allure of this exceptional cheese originates from its unique ageing process. Rosa and Guillermo, the artisans behind this masterpiece, journey every month to a cave situated 1,500 metres above sea level. “It’s the unparalleled conditions of this cave that make our cheese so distinctive,” Rosa explains. Braving an hour-long uphill trek, they carry the cheeses in their backpacks to ensure optimal ageing conditions. 

More than just a delicacy: A symbol of Asturian heritage 

Cabrales cheese is far more than a culinary treat; it’s a vital aspect of Asturian gastronomy and cultural identity. Protected by a Designation of Origin since 1981, the tradition dates back even further to Asturian farmers who aged their cheeses in the high mountain caves during the summer. Rosa has breathed new life into this age-old practice, inherited from her forebears. 

The magic is in the details 

What sets this cheese apart is Rosa and her son’s meticulous attention during the ageing process. They regularly rotate the cheese and remove any unwanted mould, a process which naturally softens the cheese over time. “The cave’s low temperatures enable slow fermentation, which is the real secret behind our cheese,” Rosa reveals. 

A noble cause: Cheesemaking with a mission 

Beyond gaining international acclaim, the cheese also serves a philanthropic purpose. An amount of 15% of the auctioned sum is donated to the Association of Families of Children with Cancer in Asturias, with the remainder used to promote this unique Designation of Origin. 

Cogesa Expats

With this achievement, Rosa stands not just as a culinary ambassador of Spain but also as a living testament to her region’s rich cultural heritage. 

What is Queso de Cabrales? 

Originating from the Asturian region of the Picos de Europa, Cabrales is a blue cheese made from raw cow’s milk, or a blend of raw cow’s, sheep’s, and goat’s milk. The cheese is aged in natural limestone caves for at least two months—sometimes up to five. The cave’s high humidity and low temperatures create the perfect environment for penicillium mould, which gives the cheese its characteristic blue veins. 

This is a cheese of powerful flavour and a somewhat crumbly texture. Its taste can vary, influenced by the type of milk used and the duration of maturation. 

In the kitchen, Cabrales is extremely versatile. Whether savoured on its own, paired with nuts or fruit, or incorporated into sauces and salads, its robust flavour complements strong red wines, Asturian apple cider (sidra), and even potent beers. 

Also read: A box of special Spanish tomatoes yields almost €2,000

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