Muntanyola: the world cheese champion committed to social sustainability

20th March 2024

Success Stories

Muntanyola: the world cheese champion committed to social sustainability

Its lúpulus cheese won the bronze medal at the World Cheese Awards in 2022, and its garrotxa and vell reserva goat cheeses picked up two more prizes at France’s Mondial du Fromage (Cheese World Cup) in 2023. Not a bad first showing for Muntanyola at the cheese world’s most prestigious events. Competing with over 1,500 products, this company, which provides employment to people with disabilities, has earned a place among the best.

Urpina is an agro-social project created by the AMPANS foundation, which supports people with disabilities on a farm in Sant Salvador de Guardiola, Bages county and also provides residential facilities for members of this group.

The farm was donated by the owners with the goal of ensuring their two children with functional diversity would always be cared for, in addition to creating job opportunities for those who needed them. The project involved restoring the existing vineyards and also expanding the estate to plant more native grape varieties.

Successful sustainable production

Since late 2015, Urpina has also been producing cheese. As part of AMPANS’ goal to create jobs for more people with people with disabilities, they acquired the business from a married couple of cheesemakers seeking to retire, who shared all their expertise and machinery with the foundation.

The Muntanyola cheese factory currently employs 13 people and produces over 15 different cheeses, with a range of curing times and four kinds of milk: goat, cow, sheep and buffalo.

Other activities on the property include farming systems that combine trellised vines with the estate’s traditional goblet-trained vines.

The grapes are harvested by hand to produce merlot and cabernet sauvignon, as well as sumoll and mandó, two local varieties. Two people look after the vineyards throughout the year, but the whole farm works together when it's time for the harvest. For the people who live at the Urpina residence, it’s like a big party.

DO Pla de Bages wines are a late-ripening variety with a good concentration; the yields are low but the quality is high. The 3 Nits red wine, for example, is crafted with merlot, featuring a smooth texture and overtones of red berries. It preserves all the fullness and concentration of the ageing notes, and pairs well with cold cuts, red meat and highly cured cheeses.

The Urpina/Muntanyola project has emerged as a leading example of how a social initiative can help to market local products and be highly successful.

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