The proof of the outstanding quality of this product is its official recognition as a European Culinary Heritage Product
, as well as the gold medal awarded by the International Gastronomy Academy as one of the finest European cheeses.
In the sub-regions of Urbía, Gorbea, Aralar, Urbasa, Bidasoa-Baztan and the Navarrese Pyrenees, Idiazabal D.O. cheese has been produced since 1989 as the result of a merger between the Idiazabal and Urbasa designations. The reasons for this merger are that the pasturelands and habitats are very similar and the manufacturing processes are almost identical.
Idiazabal cheese is typically made from the milk of the Latxa sheep, a small, rustic, Pyrenean breed with a dark or blond head which has adapted very well to the local seasonal cycle of grazing in the valleys during winter
and up on the mountains in summer. Milking is done by hand between March and July. The cheeses can be easily identified by their small size, cylindrical shape, and hard, smooth, evenly coloured rind which ranges from light yellow to dark brown.
You can also tell the difference on tasting, as its intense, well-balanced flavour is inimitable, with a slight piquant touch
and no single flavour overshadowing the others. The smoking, which was once accidental, because there were no chimneys in the shepherds' huts, is now an intrinsic element after a maturing period of 60 days.
Lovers of this delicious cheese should be sure to mark the last weekend in August in their diaries, for the "Artzai Eguna"
in Uharte-Arakil, a fair based around sheepdog trials and Idiazabal cheese that gives visitors the opportunity to bid for the finest pieces at an auction.