Any one of my fellow hip hop fan will know that a reference to cheese in a rap song means money.. and it has been like that all the way back to 80’s rap songs. Funny enough, there is one area in the world where cheese actually can translate into money, but it isn’t on the mean streets of Compton or the Bronx. It in fact is in Italy’s picturesque Emilia-Romagna region where Parmigiano-Reggiano, also known as Parmesan to us folks in North America is treated not only as a delicious accompaniment to your pasta, but also as a form of currency with one particular bank in Italy!

But for real?

Credito Emliano, the name of the bank that that actually accepts wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese as collateral has engaged in this practice for some time now and there’s a very good reason for it. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is actually protected by law in the European Union which stipulates that only Parmigiano made in Italy can be marketed or sold under the Parmesan or Parmigiano-Reggiano name. Much like the EU law that also mandates that the only sparkling wine that can be named “Champagne” is that which comes from the Champagne region of France which is why its Italian equivalent for example is named Prosecco, not Champagne. But I digress, back to the cheese.. um.. matter at hand.

Why is it so special?

Parmigiano-Reggiano is produced in a strict, traditional fashion in the regions of Parma and Reggio in the Emilia-Romagna region in northern Italy, and is known for its deliciously sharp and complex flavor, ranging from fruity to nutty, much of it depending on how long it has been aged. It’s known for its pleasing texture that crunches in your mouth thanks to the salt crystals which become more pronounced as it ages.

How much is it worth?

Credito Emiliano has a rolling (excuse the pun) inventory of approximately half a million wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, stored in its cellars and aged anywhere from 18 to 36 months and with a value of approximately $250-300 million! Housed in a high-security complex surrounded by barbed wire, the bank stacks thousands of wheels in its closely temperature and humidity controlled complex while professional staffers regularly rotate, prick and even taste each wheel to ensure optimum aging.

Fascinating to keep in mind that this type of cheese cannot be reproduced or branded as Parmigiano-Reggiano anywhere else in the world, part of the reason that it holds a high value. So the next time you go shopping for your favorite cheese, make sure that the Parmesan you buy has the “D.O.C.” which stands for Denominazione di origine controllata, a protective classification which ensures the quality and place of origin of the cheese.

Categories: Indulgence