After 12 months, the Consortium experts carry out a test called “quality inspection” on all the wheels: each wheel is tapped with a hammer and the trained ear of the quality inspector recognises any defects inside the cheese that may compromise quality.
The conforming wheels are marked with the hot-iron brand thus becoming Parmigiano Reggiano. All identifying marks and signs are removed from any wheels which do not meet the PDO requirements.
The quality control identifies three cheese categories:
· “first-grade” Parmigiano Reggiano: the cheese that fully complies with the production specifications. It is marked with the hot-iron brand.
· “medium-grade” Parmigiano Reggiano: the cheese that shows minor or moderate defects in the structure of its paste and/or on the rind, yet that do not alter the typical organoleptic characteristics of the product. These wheels are marked with the hot-iron brand, but they can be recognized through the parallel grooves engraved all around the cheese rind.
· “de-rinded” cheese: the cheese that shows major defects is downgraded by eliminating the marks of origin through the removal of the rind (a few millimeters). Therefore, this cheese cannot be called Parmigiano Reggiano and refer to the PDO in any way.