Greece is a country with a long history and traditions lost in time. Some of these refer to milk and its by-products. For instance, milk was considered to be sacred food by ancient Greeks, because Zeus, leader of the Olympian gods, was fed with milk from the nymph Amalthia. Also, according to Greek mythology, the art of cheese-making was a gift to mankind by the Olympian gods.
Most Greek cheeses are produced from sheep and goat milk. The fact that many of them are nowadays copied, verifies their superior quality compared to similar products produced in other countries with cow milk, and emphasises the need for their promotion.
In order to differentiate and ensure products with special characteristics, the Eyropean Union has published Regulation 2081/92/EEC for the Protection of geographical labelling and Names of Origin of Agricultural Products and Foods. For a geographical product to be entitled to Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status, it must, among other criteria, fulfill the specifications and be produced in a traditional manner within a specific region, in the human and natural environment of which its original characteristics are attributed. According to this Regulation, each traditional name is part of a heritage shared by all the people who live or will live in the region where this traditional product was created and developed.
It is a long-term guarantee that can undoubtedly be used for the product for centuries to come. It offers many advantages which should be preserved and developed by the populations that live in these regions.
Within the framework of the Regulation, Greece has supplied the European Union with applications, complete with all supporting documentation, for the inclusion of 25 traditional cheeses in the Protected Destination of Origin (PDO) products list. With the Regulation 1107/96 of the Commission of June 12th 1996 the following cheeses were accepted: Feta, Kasseri, Kefalograviera, Manouri, Galotyri, Kopanisti, Graviera Kritis, Graviera Naxou, Graviera Agrafon, Sfela, Anevato, Kalathaki Limnou, Katiki Domokou, Pichtogalon Chanion, San Michali and Formaella Arahovas Parnassou, while approval is pending for the rest.
What defines traditional Greek cheeses is their high quality and their particular characteristics upon which their reputation is based. The production of these cheeses requires almost exclusively sheep and ewe milk. This milk differs greatly in both constitution and sensory characteristics from cows milk. It is therefore normal and expected that cheeses produced from this milk should be different. Moreover, the particular climatological and ground conditions of the country, the race of sheep, the large variety of endemic herbs of the country, the production conditions and the processing of milk in combination with the long experience in taking advantage of sheep and goat milk are factors that affect and shape their original characteristics.
The most important thing to point out is that almost all traditional Greek cheeses are produced from milk of animals that are free to graze in regions that are free from fertilizers, insecticides, pesticides and other polluters; in that sense, they constitute organic products.