Why Cabrales Blue Cheese Is The Most Expensive In The World

When it comes to high-end foods, cheese is among the most common — and most delicious. But one style undoubtedly is "the big cheese" when it comes to price. The title of the world's most expensive cheese is now held by Cabrales blue cheese, a 2.2-kilogram (roughly 5-pound) wheel of which sold for €30,000 (more than $32,000) at a recent auction. The semi-hard cheese hails from northern Spain and is typically crafted from unpasteurized cow milk sometimes blended with goat or sheep's milk. It ages at least eight months in cool, humid limestone caves in the Asturian Picos de Europa Mountains, which create the ideal environment for penicillium growth. The mold works from the outside inwards to provide the characteristic blue cheese taste and aroma. The products are carefully crafted by hand and typically carried down from the caves on foot.

Why is this cheese deemed to be so valuable? Among other reasons, the cheese is prized because of its tightly controlled production. Cheese can only truly be called Cabrales if it's produced in the administrative region of Cabrales Council — the regulatory Council DOP Cabreles — or other specifically designated nearby areas. The unique profile of the local microscopic organisms creates the distinctive flavor, which has been described as acidic and salty, with a strong aroma.

Lots of pricey cheese choices

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the ultra-pricey selection dethroned a different block of Cabrales that had previously held the record. That one, sold in 2019, cost around $22,000, or about $10,000 less than the recent sale. Interestingly, both were purchased by the same buyer, restaurant owner Iván Suárez. "It's my passion for the land and my appreciation for the hard work of these cheesemakers that fuels my bids," he explained (via The Olive Press).

Those looking to spend big bucks on cheese certainly aren't limited to Cabrales. While typical Cabrales sells for around $40 per pound, the uber-rare pule may be the most expensive cheese in the world by weight. Due to its rarity, the Balkan donkey milk cheese (which reportedly tastes similar to manchego) sells for between $600 and $1,000 per pound. Even expensive grilled cheeses can break the bank, like the one served by New York City restaurant Serendipity 3. For $214, diners can enjoy melted caciocavallo podolico cheese on bread baked with Dom Perignon champagne and slathered with white truffle butter and edible gold flakes. While these all may be out of reach for most everyday cheese lovers, there's no doubt true connoisseurs with a healthy bank account have plenty of great options, including the record-setting Cabrales.