The caseificio or cheese dairy where we get half our Parmesan is called Superchina and is one of the highest dairies making the cheese. It sits at just under 1000m in the Modenese Appenines, only a stones throw from the border of Emilia Romagna with Tuscany. The nearest hamlet is Canavare di Fanano at 1100m, and 10 minutes drive beyond that the Monte Cimone ski station is a popular winter retreat with the Bolognese and Modenese.
At 2165m, Monte Cimone is the highest peak in Emiglia Romagna making the scenery around the dairy spectacular. The dairy was founded in 1955 by Signor Ugolini and it is now run by his grandson, Bernardo. It has always been a cooperative and at the start had some 80 small soci or members. Now there are just 10, the smallest has 8 cows and the largest over 100. All of them farm within a 10km radius of the dairy and all their Parmesan, except the wheels we buy, is sold within the borders of Emilia Romagna.
The combined milks of the soci make 10 cheeses a day and each member gets paid according to the quality as well as the quantity of their milk. For a number of reasons, milk quality around Superchina is very high. The cows have abundant alpine pasture that is full of flowers, aromatic herbs and different grasses. They drink pure spring water straight from Monte Cimone (up to 150ltrs of it a day, making water quality a significant factor in overall milk quality).
The Friesian cows kept at Superchina also tolerate cold better than heat so are far happier up here. Friesians kept on lower land suffer far more stress in the summer months, are more prone to infection and produce milk with more impurities.
The consequence of all these factors is highlighted by the results of the bi-monthly tests carried out by the Consorzio; they show that Superchina milk has an exceptionally high percentage of fat, minerals and proteins making it perfect for cheese making.