Continental Classics: Grana Padano

25 November 2015, 16:27 PM
  • With an impressive history and unique taste, it's no wonder Grana Padano has stood the test of time. SF looks into the story behind the iconic cheese, and finds out how retailers can make the most of it
Continental Classics: Grana Padano


The Benedictine monks changed the course of Italian history and culinary expertise when, centuries ago, they created Grana Padano cheese. It was shortly after 1000AD and hunger was widespread – no resources from the land or from cattle could be wasted. The monks who farmed the land around the Po Valley in Northern Italy needed a clever solution to preserve the milk they didn’t drink right away. That solution was a long-ripened hard cheese called Grana Padano, named ‘Grana’ due to its grainy structure. Over a thousand years later, this Italian delicacy is still produced following the same traditional methods that the monks developed back then. It is now ingrained in Italian cooking.

Time is an essential ingredient in the production of Grana Padano. As the cheese matures, the aromas and flavours evolve. There are three different vintages of the cheese: Grana Padano (aged between nine and 16 months), Grana Padano ‘over 16 months,’ and Grana Padano ‘Riserva’ (over 20 months). The different maturation stages give it a versatility that allows it to taste great with a wide variety of wines and recipes.

Strict controls are carried out throughout the entire production chain by members of a Consortium dedicated to protecting and promoting the product. Only the products that meet the highest standard required receive the Grana Padano Cheese fire-branded marks grading them as PDO products. These marks provide information that allows complete traceability, even down to the farmer that produced the milk.

Grana Padano is recognised as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) product, protected by the Italian State and European Union. Its PDO status means that it is essentially and exclusively linked to the particular area in Northern Italy where it is produced, and is therefore inseparable from the climate, culture, and people that create it. This ensures the ultimate in quality, authenticity and traceability, making it the world’s best-selling PDO product.


The EU believes that protecting geographical names to use for product names in this way is central to promoting quality produce across the world. Therefore, manufacturers and retailers should be able to add value to their cheese range by promoting PDO cheeses and emphasising the unique characteristics, history and quality of each, much in the same way as wine is promoted to consumers. PDO Grana Padano cheese is distinguished and characterised by a series of distinct markings which are divided into marks of origin and marks of selection. These two types of marks have different functions and are also distinguished by the methods by which they are applied onto the cheese wheel and by the producers that apply them. The markings can be maximised by retailers in order to hero this PDO status.

Retailers should explain this information to their customers in order to explain the difference in cost and value. Nicola Cesare Baldrighi, President of The Consortium for the Protection of Grana Padano cheese says, “This growth in demand for Grana Padano and other PDO products acknowledges the importance that UK consumers place on traceability and authenticity of food products, especially in light of the challenges that the food industry has faced in regards to these issues over the past year. Consumers want to know that the products they are buying are of the highest quality and from producers that they can trust. We hope and anticipate that Grana Padano will see a continued success for the future.”

Grana Padano should be stored in the least cold part of the fridge, where the temperature is normally around 4°C. In this case it is advisable not to put cheeses of different flavours and aromas together in order to prevent the stronger and more penetrating cheeses from contaminating those with more delicate characteristics. It is also advisable to wrap Grana Padano in good quality clingfilm or a freezer bag.

more like this
close stay up-to-date with our free newsletter | expert intel | tailored industry news | new-to-know trend analysis | sign up | speciality food daily briefing