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Grana originally referred to a class of hard, mature cheeses from Italy which have a granular texture and are often used for grating. These cheeses are typically made in the form of large drums. The structure is often described as crystalline, and the drums are divided by being split with a fairly blunt triangular knife designed for the purpose, rather than being sliced, cut or sawn. Within the European Union, the term Grana is now legally protected by Grana Padano Protected Designation of Origin, such that only Grana Padano may be sold using the term in EU countries.
The two best-known examples of grana-type cheeses are Parmigiano-Reggiano and Grana Padano. The two cheeses are broadly similar, with the difference that everything that the former is, the latter is less so: less crumbly, less sharp, less grainy, etc.
The main difference between the two is that cows producing Parmigiano-Reggiano eat only grass and cereals (no silage), no preservatives and no antibiotics. Cows that have been treated with antibiotics are suspended from production of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Silage is a fermented forage that requires the addition of a natural preservative (lysozyme) to Grana Padano.
Other Grana cheeses include:
- Granone Lodigiano (also called Tipico Lodigiano), produced in the Province of Lodi
- Trentingrana, produced in and around Trento
- Gransardo, from Sardinia
Created by monks nearly 1000 years ago as way to preserve the surplus milk their herds produced, they invented a cheese that could withstand the test of time.
The cheese became so popular that certain varieties of Grana cheeses became well-known such as Grana Lodigiano, Grana Emiliano, Grana Lombardo and Grana Veneto. However, when Italian law Number 125 from 10 April 1954, defining the designations of Italian cheese origins, was applied, it was asked that the designation of origin Grana Padano be granted, as the term Padano was considered the most suitable to reunite, under a more broad geographical term, the different varieties of Grana cheese, that were produced in the various regions of the Po River Valley.
Therefore, from 1954, the type Grana has been absorbed in the species represented by the new designations Grana Padano and Parmigiano-Reggiano, and as such does not exist anymore as designation of its own.
The presence of Trentingrana is not an exception, as it has been granted - in view of a legal ruling (D.P.R. 26/01/87) and due to particular methods of production - the possibility to specify the area of production (independent Province of Trento) though still remaining to all extent subject to Grana Padano PDO (Protected Designation of Origin, in Italian Denominazione di Origine Protetta), as it maintains all its characteristics, having to comply with the same production standard and subjected to the controls and services of the Consortium for the Protection of Grana Padano Cheese.
Therefore, within the European Union, the word Grana forms an integral and essential part of Grana Padano PDO, and as such, cannot be used for trade within the EU in disjunction to the word Padano, and must refer only to cheeses that have been distinguished with the Grana Padano PDO status. This was also confirmed in 2007 by a ruling of the First Instance European Court of Justice (12 September 2007, case T-291/03).
- Consorzio Tutela Grana Padano
- Rubino, R., Sardo, P., Surrusca, A. (2005), Italian Cheese, ISBN 88-8499-111-0