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ABSTRACT

The sensory profile technique was applied to the Italian Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) Fiore Sardo cheese, made exclusively from raw ewe's milk in artisanal farms in Sardinia. The descriptive sensory analysis was used to find the sensory attributes which characterize this PDO cheese at two different ripening times (105 and 180 days). The product specification states that the cheese must have no less than 105 days of maturation before being sold, while at more than 180 days it is usually used grated.

Twelve expert panelists, whose efficacy was confirmed by variance analysis, identified and evaluated 10 sensory attributes on cheese samples: smoked and rennet for odor; sour and salty for taste, piquant for trigeminal sensation; smoked and rennet for aroma; floury, grainy and friability for texture. The judges were also asked to provide an overall evaluation of sensory typicality.

Cheeses from different farms ripened for 105 days differed significantly for smoked odor, salty, grainy and typicality, whereas the cheeses ripened for 180 days were significantly different for smoked odor, piquant, friability and sensory typicality. The comparison between cheeses from the same farm at 105 and 180 days showed no significant differences.

PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS

The quality policy implemented in the European Union (EU) for agricultural products has met with growing interest among producers and consumers. Quality means to satisfy the expectations of the consumers. Indeed, consumers are giving increasing importance to the quality of foodstuffs rather than the quantity, generating a demand for agricultural products with an identifiable geographical origin. This can be obtained by providing certifications, such as Protected Designation of Origin and Protected Geographical Indication, with established characteristics of production and defined product characteristics, including sensory attributes which are strong determinants of acceptability. The study of traditional products, such as Fiore Sardo cheese, can be of considerable benefit to the rural economy (particularly in remote areas) by improving the incomes of farmers and by retaining the rural population in these areas. Moreover, the use of the sensory profile may help to preserve the identity of Fiore Sardo cheese by means of a sensory quality certification.