How to learn to eat, to drink, and to learn — all at the same time
As we arrived at The Australian Hotel, Claudia Bowman, International Cheese Expert and self proclaimed “curd nerd” called the attention of the group waiting outside the Wine Emporium and told us not to eat cheese. This could have been rather confusing, given that we had arrived at the ‘What Cheese is That?’ cheese appreciation class, had she not then explained that some people start eating the cheese before the class starts.
Sipping on some bubbles we entered the small room, lined with wine racks, and claimed our space atop a plate of eight cheeses, a glass of red, a glass of white and a beer. After a brief and informative introduction to cheese involving sheep stomach and enzymes, and concluding with Claudia singing “the rest is history” we were introduced to the seven types of cheese (see below).
Now, time to strap yourself in and feel the cheese…
Buffalo Mozzarella – Buffalo Milk, Shaw River VIC
A fresh cheese, originally made for evenly melting when cooked, could not have been more delicately flavoured. A soft milky cheese Claudia recommended not pairing it with any of the beverages and given how mild it was I could see how this was a wise decision. Passionate about the heritage and the designation origin of cheese, Claudia explained that a buffalo mozzarella not from the Campania region of Italy should be referred to and labelled as Fiore di Latte, a rule legally subscribed to by EU and nowhere else.
Meredith Ash Rolled – Goat Milk, Meredith VIC
Being an ash rolled goats cheese, Claudia identified this cheese as “7. Processed”, clarifying that the simple “process” of rolling the cheese in ash is was aligns it so.
Beginning our accompanying experiment with this cheese was such an impressive and insightful selection as it showed so clearly the difference that a wine or beer can make to the cheese you are tasting. When tried on a clean palate this cheese was citrusy, clean and creamy. After the shiraz though it completely lost the citric tang and was a sweet and crazy creamy morsel. The “before wine” citrus taste of this cheese was up there with my faves.
Holy Goat Matured Skyla – Goat Milk, Sutton Grange VIC
This ones was the most expensive taste upon our plates. Given that it costs $200 per kilo it wasn’t the best on the plate, saying that it was still very delicious. A salty and bitter taste that paired perfectly with chocolate brownie. After tasting this cheese on its own you would not have thought this would taste so bloody good with chocolate, but it worked! Given the strong bitterness it also paired well with the Pastilla Nash (Fig and walnut log).
McLaren Vale Camembert – Cow Milk, Adelaide Hills SA
The first of two Camemberts this first sampler is an Australian variety. The rind has a distinct chlorine scent but paired with the shiraz it was soft and creamy. Certainly this was one, if not THE best Australian Camembert I have had but the French one…
Rouzaire Camembert French – Cow Milk, Normandy FRA
The French Camembert was unbelievable. From memory this is the first French Camembert I have tasted and to date I would say the best full stop. As someone who loves cauliflower, the smell and nuttiness to the taste was quite exquisite, paired well with a sweet wine. Matured on straw matting, a factor that Claudia mentioned may be difficult with Australian health standards, might just be a winner and frankly I’ll risk it for this cheese.
Pyengana Cheddar – Cow Milk, Pyengana TAS
A cloth-bound cheddar matured for 36 months this cheese was crumbly with a bite. Not intended for cooking, which isn’t going to stop me, this cheese is put through a “cheddaring” process, hence the name. Applying pressure to the curd, cutting it and pressing it again is the reason this cheese crumbles. Despite being the most expensive to make this Tassie cheddar is a thrifty $120 per kilo. Paired with an equally bitey Shiraz or (*shivvers*) whisky.
Testun Al Barolo – Mixed Milk, Piedmont ITA
A processed cheese soaked in a barrel of wine pulp, this was quite an experience. The grape pulp had dried into crispy flakes amongst the semi-hard cheese. With a fruity, pineapple-esque taste it only made sense to pair with the shiraz.
Epoisses – Cow Milk, Burgundy FRA
A washed rind cheese this soft, creamy and smelly French cheese was prefaced that it’s “bark is bigger than its bite”. This was certainly the case. Being gifted to us, along with 2 beers, to compensate for the booking error, the cheese stunk up my whole car. Paired with the sweet wine it was not the pungent mouthful as the smell would suggest, it turned out to be quite mild.
Rating: 9 out of 10
- Learnt a buttload and exposed to remarkable new things
- A great social experience (Would recommend for couples and groups)
- Claudia’s personal insights, anecdotes and showmanship were marvellously entertaining and educational
- Very personal and professional when approaching the confusion with our booking
- Confusion with our initial booking (which was rectified and shouldn’t happen again with their new booking system)
- Beverage details not listed on our tasting sheet
- Left with an insatiable lust for cheese and a gross desire to eat the cheese other patrons had left on their plates
- Small room which, had the class been totally booked out, would have been rather cosy (saying that it complemented the pungent smell of cheese)