Parmigiano Reggiano is a traditional Grana Italian cheese produced in certain areas of the Emilia Romagna region. As it’s been granted Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status by the EU, it cannot be produced anywhere aside from its designated area.
Grana cheeses are hard, mature cheeses with a granular crumbly texture and rich, complex flavors. Parmigiano Reggiano cannot be aged for less than 12 months. At this stage, the cheese is inspected by a Master Cheese Grader from Il Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano (Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese Consortium), who must determine if the cheese adheres to the consortium’s strict standards. Once the Parmigiano Reggiano wheel passes the muster, it can either be packaged to hit the market or left to age further, in some cases up to 60 months.
While it’s not uncommon to encounter younger or older (Stravecchio) cheese on the market, a standard timeline of 22-24 months is considered the optimal span for full maturation. It’s believed that at this point, the flavors are fully set, with the cheese developing its signature multi-layered umami flavor, with strong nuttiness and sharpness but with a less acidic tang. This type of cheese is sometimes referred to as Parmigiano Reggiano Vecchio.