“Pecorino delle Balze Volterrane” is a cheese made exclusively from raw, whole sheep’s milk coming from animals raised using the half-wild grazing system, vegetable rennet and salt, and has always been recognised through the use of rennet taken from the flowers of the thistle plant or wild artichoke (Cynaria cardunculus), present in abundance in the area, that gives the product a sweeter flavour.
The climatic conditions of the production area are particularly favourable in obtaining the product. In fact, through its internal position that’s not too far from the sea (the Volterra territory has a sub-coastal climate), with rainy autumn and spring, quite mild winter and breezy summer helping the development of local plant species that are the main source of sustenance for the grazing sheep, and that give the milk volatile aromas that are transferred to this much-loved cheese. Some mid-1700s testimonials, refer to correspondence between Monsignor Mario Guarnacci, a Volterra scholar, and his master philologist Anton Maria Salvini who, from Rome, thanked for the receipt of the cheeses writing at the bottom of one of the letters: “thank you very much for the Volterra cheeses sent to me, whose milk comes from the breasts full of that sauce, given up by these green and pleasant pastures. Yours faithfully”, and again according to Salvini, pecorino di Volterra “covers up and beats every other cheese” so much as to decant it in two sonnets.
Even the Frenchman M. De La Lande in his “Voyage in Italie”, Paris 1786, describes the customs and traditions of the Italian people and in chapter XXIII, devoted to cheese “Des Fromages d’Italie”, reports on the «cacio marzolino» produced in a part of Tuscany, probably Volterra, through the use of vegetable rennet made from thistle flowers («il y a en Toscane un fromage doux, appellé cacio marzolino, parce qu’il se fait principalement au mois de mars, pour le quel on fait prendre le lait avec une fleur de chardon”).
The taste is fragrant, with flower and plant aromas, characteristics that become more and more intense by increasing the maturing period from “fresco” (fresh) to “semi-fresco” (semi-fresh), accompanied by a strong pungency and flavour and a slight sharpness in the “stagionato” (matured) and “da asserbo” types matured for over 12 months.
The sheep breeding area and that of production and maturing of “Pecorino delle scogliere del Volterra” is just in the municipal territories of Volterra, Pomarance, Montecatini Val di Cecina, Castelnuovo Val di Cecina, Monteverdi, all to be found in the province of Pisa.