Vertical Tasting

The secrets held by Grana Padano PDO at different ageing stages are discovered through vertical tasting.
This involves tasting cheese that is at different stages of the ageing process, produced in the same province or, even better, in the same dairy.
Ideally, the cheese available for tasting should include one product aged for 9 months, one aged for more than 16 months and a Riserva cheese aged for more than 20 months; there should be a gap of at least six months between one ageing stage and another.
The tasting method consists of a sensory analysis divided into five distinct phases.
Vertical Tasting

Visual Analysis

The visual analysis of Grana Padano PDO focuses on 5 aspects:
 
  • Colour, ranging from white to straw yellow, getting deeper as the ageing progresses
  • Calcium crystals, that is, the tiny white spots that feel “gritty” when tasting the cheese
  • Tyrosine crystals, that is, round whitish spots with a slightly bitter taste
  • The ease with which it breaks into small chunks
  • Grainy texture
All these characteristics become more pronounced as the ageing period progresses.
 
Vertical Tasting

Olfactory Analysis

There is no specific vocabulary of descriptive terms for the different smells and each aroma is instead defined by the name of the element that has a given smell.

In Grana Padano aged from 9 to 16 months, the aromas are not very complex and mainly emanate milk and cream.
As the ageing period progresses, the aromas become more complex and, in addition to those mentioned above, there are aromas of dry grass, butter and a hint of beef stock.
The dominant aromas in Grana Padano Reserve are of butter, grass, nuts and beef stock, which become even more complex and harmonious.
Vertical Tasting

Taste Analysis

Taste analysis of Grana Padano PDO is performed by chewing the cheese slowly so that the flavour molecules become enveloped by saliva and are carried to the taste receptor cells found on the taste buds.

The molecules that provide taste sensations are: lactic acid, minerals, simple and complex amino acids and all water soluble molecules.
The parameters for the taste  analysis of cheese are sweetness and savouriness/pungency, which are inversely proportional to each another.
While the taste of Grana Padano PDO aged up to 16 months is dominated by sweetness, in cheese aged for more than 20 months its savouriness/pungency becomes more perceptible.
Vertical Tasting

Texture Analysis


A fundamentally important aspect of cheese is its texture, as it strongly influences its other organoleptic characteristics.
The term texture in this case refers to numerous parameters:
  • Elasticity: the ability to return to the original shape after it has been deformed
  • Adhesiveness: the amount of effort required for the tongue to remove the parts of the product that have stuck to the palate or the teeth
  • Crumbliness: the capacity to break into small chunks
  • Solubility: how quickly it melts in heat
In Grana Padano PDO, the parameters of elasticity and adhesiveness tend to decrease as the ageing period increases; conversely, crumbliness and solubility, which are fairly low in cheese aged up to 16 months, are very high in cheese aged for more than 20 months.
 
 
Parameter
Ageing period in number of months
 
Up to 16 months
Over 16 months
Over 20 months

Visual Analysis

Colour
WHITE
SLIGHTLY STRAW COLOURED
STRAW COLOURED
Calcium crystals
ABSENT
FOUND UNDER THE RIND
FOUND UNIFORMLY
Tyrosine crystals
ABSENT
FOUND UNDER THE RIND
FOUND UNIFORMLY
Ease of breaking 
LOW
MEDIUM
HIGH
Grainy texture
LOW
MEDIUM
HIGH

Olfactory Analysis

Aromas perceived
MILK, CREAM
MILK, CREAM, BUTTER AND BEEF STOCK
BUTTER, BEEF STOCK, GRASS AND NUTS

Taste Analysis

Persistence
SHORT
MEDIUM
LONG
Sweetness
STRONG
MEDIUM
LOW
Savouriness / pungency
LOW
MEDIUM
STRONG

Texture Analysis

Elasticity
STRONG
MEDIUM
LOW
Adhesiveness
STRONG
MEDIUM
LOW
Crumbliness
LOW
MEDIUM
HIGH
Solubility
LOW
MEDIUM
HIGH
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