Grana Padano, granted DOP on 12 June 1996, is one of the few cheeses that can possibly compete with the King of Cheeses; Parmigiano-Reggiano. Created by the Cistercian monks of Chiaravalle in the 12th century, it is still made throughout the Po River Valley in northeastern Italy. The cheese is made from unpasteurised, semi-skimmed cow’s milk from two milking and generally aged for two years. At the end of the cheese making process, Grana Padano develops a firm, thick and deeply straw-coloured rind protecting the fragrant, dry, flaking interior. Grana means “grainy” in Italian which is reflected in the fine granular texture with an intensely sweet flavour. As Grana Padano ages, the flavours become pronounced, savory and complex and the texture becomes more crumbly. Though similar to Parmigiano Reggiano Grana Padano is inexpensive because areas producing the cheese are bigger. Moreover, Grana is less crumbly, milder and less complex than its long-aged sibling. Grana Padano is manufactured in cylindrical wheels measuring 35 to 45 cm in diameter, and 15 to 18 cm in height. It is sold at different ripening stages: Grana Padano (9 to 16 months), Grana Padano oltre 16 mesi (over 16 months) and Grana Padano Riserva (over 20 months). Try pairing the cheese with a Barolo, Zinfandel or Gavi white wine.