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ancient sheep cheese from the Pyrenees


Said to be one of the world’s oldest cheeses (not surprisingly as the Basques have been here since forever) Osseu-Iraty was first mentioned in the first century AD by the Roman author Martial, who saw it for sale in Toulouse’s markets.

The milk come from the local shaggy breeds of sheep (Manech Tête Noir, Tête Rousse and Basco-béarnaises) grazed in the Basque Country’s Iraty beech forest and in Béarn’s neighboring Ossau Valley.

As it ages, the semi-firm buttery sheep’s cheese becomes sharper and harder (and delicious with fresh fruit). Connoisseurs especially prize the summer cheeses for their complex fresh grassy taste, made when the sheep are up in their mountain pastures.

It’s AOP since 1996 (the only other AOP sheep cheese is Roquefort)

AOPs and some others

Basque Country and Béarn

Cheese and dairy

Text © Dana Facaros

Image by Pierre-Yves Beaudouin