Depending on where they lived, cheese makers in the area between Parma and Reggio called their cheese Parmigiano or Reggiano. Eventually, the two terms were combined to form the name familiar to us now: Parmigiano Reggiano® cheese.
Though they were known by different names, these hard cheeses, Parmigiano and Reggiano, were heirs of the same soil, the same grasses, the same lines of cows, the same milk, and the same cheese-making traditions. In other words, they shared the same terroir, a word that alludes to the special characteristics a food derives from the geography, geology and climate of a place.
In 1934 cheese makers in Parma, Reggio and adjoining provinces with the same terroir joined forces to standardize the production of their cheeses. They made history in so doing, forming the oldest European organization, Consorzio del Grana Tipico, for the protection and promotion of cheese produced in a defined geographical region. (Note: The term “Grana” first came into use to indicate cheeses with a grainy structure, produced in the Po Valley from the eleventh century onwards.)
In 1954 the producers renamed their consortium to reflect the historic origins of their cheese: Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano-Reggiano. Today the full name of this cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano, is proudly displayed in pin dots on the rind of each wheel.