Wine and Pecorino: The Makings for a Perfect Tuscan Picnic
The beautiful Tuscan hill town of Pienza is most famous for its world-famous pecorino cheese, made from rich sheep's milk. By far the best place to buy pecorino cheese in Pienza is the wonderful Bottega del Naturista (http://www.affittacamerelavite.it/la_bottega_del_naturista.htm), offering a huge selection of cheeses, bottles of bold wines, and everything else you need to put together a perfect Tuscan picnic lunch.
What's interesting about pecorino cheese is that it's sold in three grades based on its age: fresh, medium-aged, and mature. Unlike some other cheeses, pecorino doesn't get better as it ages, its flavor and consistency just changes. Fresh pecorino is soft and white, with a strong flavor but relatively mild when compared to the other two grades; its texture is usually is soft and moist. Medium-aged and mature pecorinos become darker and firmer and have a saltier taste than the fresh grade. Pecorino's outer rind is white or cream-colored on the fresh grade and orange to black on the medium-aged or mature ones. When eating pecorino, you should take it out of the refrigerator about an hour before eating it to let it regain its natural softness. It's excellent when flavored with some high-quality olive oil.
I'll never again be able to eat pecorino cheese without thinking of the day last summer my husband and I spent wandering through the gorgeous Pienza - a truly great memory from our trip to Italy.