Ossau-Iraty is a superb cheese-indeed it won the World Cheese Award in 2006, but remains the least known Appellation d'Origine Controlee (A.O.C) cheese. Why I’m not sure, but I suppose one has to be, and Ossau-Iraty is probably just not mainstream enough. Strange really considering its highly palatable flavour.
This cheese unites two regions of France in the Western Pyrénées: Ossau in the valley of the Bearn and Iraty in the beech forests of the Pays Basque. It’s unpasteurised and semi-soft, made with the milk of Manech ewes. During the summer the herds move up to the better grazing land higher up the mountains, which is reflected in its rich texture.
Ossau-Iraty is very complex and tastes creamy and buttery in the mouth with slight hints of fruit and a nutty, deep finish. Interestingly the rind is also edible, but be warned, it is quite tart. Good for all uses, although I tend not to use it for pizzas as the complex taste tends to be lost amongst the maelstrom of stronger cheeses.