This morning, in the magnificent setting of Palazzo Traversa, Bra, Roberto Rubino, the distinguished Italian cheese expert and one of the winners of the first Slow Food Award in Bologna last year, presented the first results of a study, promoted by the Italian Ministry of Agriculture, to analyze the differences in flavor and aroma among southern Italian cheeses. The project, entitled POM (Programma Operativo Multiregionale, or Multiregional Operational Project) is the latest and most innovative stage in an R&D operation which began as far back as the late Seventies. In his illuminating outline, Rubino placed the emphasis on two factors – feed and breed – explaining how cheeses from the milk of cattle, goats and sheep that live in mountain pastures prove to be more aromatic, tasty and wholesome than those from the milk of animals that live on farms in byres and barns. Interestingly, the same cheeses also prove to be rich in antioxidants, which combat the negative effects of the cholesterol they contain. He pointed out that such characteristics result from the variety and richness of the grasses and herbs that grazing animals feed upon. He went on to explain that the influence of breed might also be significant, some animals producing more casein in their milk than others. Finally, Rubino listed the series of books and CD-ROMs that have been produced to promulgate the results of the research. In a brief conclusion, Giuseppe Licitra, the president of a cheese and dairy research consortium in Ragusa, Sicily, took the question of variety one step further, pointing out that, whereas a wine is produced from well-defined grape varieties in a fixed period of the year, cheeses are produced all year round from the milk of different breeds of different animals which live in different conditions and nourish themselves on different feed. Maybe the time has come to specify all this on labels!All the cheeses studied in the research project are available for tasting at a special stand at Cheese 2001.