You'll meet plenty of winemakers in the Barossa but what makes Victoria McClurg different is she no longer makes wine; she makes cheese. Accordingly, it's not just any cheese: these are rare, authentically traditional varieties. All handmade with a winemaker's sensibilities and artisan skills in our own cheese cellar in the picturesque town of Angaston, South Australia, using local milk from cows and goats farmed by our neighbours. And being the cheeses made by a winemaker, you know exactly what they'll complement perfectly.
As a winemaker working in Europe, she fell in love with the idea of producing authentically regional product and when she moved back to Australia, she could see the changing landscape with a plethora of vineyards being planted at the demise of alternative farming practices. Dairy farmers have just gone through the deregulation process and were walking off their farms.
She believes the importance of diversity in our regions so to see the dairy industry suffering, Victoria made me take the leap into the world of cheese. She makes a little bit of everything from white mould and washed rind to fresh and semi-hard but her favourites are the traditional styles.
Qs: Do you have a favourite recipe or a dish that you make with your cheese?
VM: Cheese features in most dishes we make at home but I would say the most consistent go-to is simple Halloumi with a squidge of lemon - guaranteed to satisfy any tummy!
Qs: If you weren't a cheesemaker, what would you do?
VM: Most likely still Winemaking because I love making and creating.
Qs: Do you think Australians favour imported cheese more than local? Why?
VM: There has been a tremendous shift towards local products. People are starting to understand that we have sensational produce in this country and although prices are slightly higher because of a number of factors, we all support the Australian economy. If everyone does their part and buys Australian, we will all be here for the long term.
Qs: What can we do to support the local cheesemakers & industry?
VM: Get out there and buy product that you know is not only made here in Australia, but is owned by Australians.
Qs: Is cheesemaking difficult? Would you recommend it to everyone?
VM: Cheesemaking is both pleasure and pain. The delicate nuances that impact on the final product can be frustrating as the milk changes every day but when we get it right, what an amazing outcome. We are always humbled to be working with the power of fresh milk.
Qs: How do you ensure you use the best milk to make your cheese?
VM: We work with a single dairy farm and a single goat farmer. Both of them are honest and have integrity in their farming practices. This goes a long way to ensuring their quality of produce.
Qs: Why did you agree to collaborate with RIPE?
VM: RIPE not only talk about cheese but they connect people directly to the makers and showcase product when it's ripe. Taking the time to actually meet the cheesemakers rather than just buying through distributors shows care and integrity which is exactly what we are about.
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