Dairy technologist Markus Weber has been a member of the Mila – Latte Montagna Alto Adige cheese experts since 2017. He experiments in the "R&D" department in Brunico with new recipes for the tasty cheese varieties and tries to make the existing cheeses even more harmonious.
Markus, what fascinates you about cheese?
"Cheese is very versatile. It is produced all over the world, yet each type of cheese is unique. There are many production technologies, most of which are strongly linked to the respective traditions. The interaction between the technology underlying cheesemaking and the various lactic acid bacteria, which are primarily responsible for flavor formation during the ripening process, is an almost inexhaustible well. This is where the fascination of always trying something new and of giving each cheese its own unmistakable taste and character lies. In short, to be able to bring out the best in the raw material milk."
The Mila – Latte Montagna Alto Adige cheese assortment is constantly being expanded. What are the trends in the cheese market?
"Apart from some fast-paced fashion trends, consumers place more and more value on regional products. Whereby this expression explains more than just the demand for local products. Regionality means much more than identity, it stands for values, with which consumers can identify themselves with; i.e. the respectful contact with animals and the cultural landscape. For those who uphold these values, as we do, their products are in fashion. Trend #2 is for very mature cheese, which is really popular with consumers due to its intense and complex tastes. Furthermore, learning to enjoy the cheese is becoming more and more important: taking a break in the hectic workday, taking time for luxuries and a good cheese, it has become an essential experience."
How does a new cheese variety begin?
"At the beginning there‘s an idea. The team then works out which type of cheese one wants to create. Does the product fit into the cooperative’s range? Is there enough demand in the market? First of all it has to fit to our values – namely high quality, tradition, regionality, sustainability and authenticity. After that the implementation begins, several versions and attempts follow, until at some point you can find the finished product at the cheese counter. Depending on the maturation period this development can even take years."
For a kilogram of cheese, we need - depending on the cheese type - anywhere between 9 and 14 liters of milk, and for a high-quality product one needs really good raw materials …
"Exactly, that means, each one of our cooperative members is part of the Mila Cheese Team. They put a lot of love into the product, managing their little South Tyrolean mountain farms with passion and dedication, and delivering the fresh milk on a daily basis. It is then collected by us and quickly and gently processed. If at the end the cheese is tasty, it‘s thanks to the many hard-working hands which helped to make it so."