Onetik, located in Macaye, France at the foot of the Pyrenees, was built in 1983 as part of the Berria Cooperative, formed to give sheep farmers greater flexibility while ensuring the quality and safety of the milk supply. Onetik makes cheese using modern technology while preserving the traditional techniques of making Ossau-Iraty. Onetik makes their cheese from raw milk from a single herd of sheep.
Ossau-Iraty is made in the Basque Country areas of south-western France and north-central Spain. It is a traditional cheese made by shepherds in the region and its production may date back 3,000 years. It is only one of two sheep's milk cheeses produced in France (the other is Roquefort). The milk must come from the Basco-béarnaise, Red-faced Manech, of Black-faced Manech breeds of sheep. It is an uncooked cheese made by pressing. Ossau-Iraty received its Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée from France in 1980 and the European Union granted Ossau-Iraty Appellation d'Origine Protégée (protection of geographic products) in 1996.
Ossau-Iraty is medium firm with a light brown natural rind. The paste starts light brown near the edges and becomes light beige toward the center. It smells like lanolin, sheep, sweat and a 14 year old boy's closet. The texture is dry with a slight crumbly, grainy, waxy texture and it bounces back from a firm press. It tastes buttery, nutty with a trace of citrus. I am drinking a bottle of Poma Aurea Sidra De Asturias - a very dry, mildly tart cider with a touch of funk and a lot of apple and fruit flavor produced right next door to Basque Country in northern Spain. The cider's funk and the cheese sheepiness soften each other as does the cider's tartness and the cheese's butter. The apple flavors work with the nut flavors in the cheese and produce interesting lingering apple nut flavors kissed with a light touch of butter. The cider and cheese are a delightful way to spend a warm spring afternoon.