For a dramatic entry into an equally thrilling cheese room, descend the orange spiral staircase to the Spring Street Cheese Cellar where customised cheese caves (Australia's first underground cheese maturation cellars) and a handsome selection of cheeses are presented in a perfectly controlled room behind glass under the masterful eye of Anthony Femia, Head Cheesemonger and Affineur (someone who ages and matures cheese) who placed 4th at the 2013 Concours Mondial du Meilleur Fromager (the contest for the world's best cheesemonger).
At St Kilda's Milk the Cow, a licensed fromagerie, resident cheesemonger Laura Lown offers informative classes as well as fondues and lush tasting plates.
La Formaggeria, from the lively cheese-making Cappodocio sisters, is a deli, grocer and cafe (with a micro-cheese lab in the works) that sells a compact range of housemade cheeses – sometimes washed in Clement coffee grounds - and sensational housemade crackers too.
The Cheese Room at Richmond Hill Cafe and Larder (originally started by Stephanie Alexander and Will Studd, a major proponent of the Melbourne cheese scene) presents a swoon-worthy array of the good stuff, with expert staff behind the counter.
Also try La Latteria, a self-proclaimed 'Mozzarella Laboratory', Harper and Blohm in Essendon and keep an eye out for Cornelius Cheese, opening in Brunswick this spring.
Spring Street Cheese Cellar, basement, 157 Spring St, Melbourne, 9639 0335, springstreetgrocer.com.au
Milk the Cow, 1/157 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda, 9537 2225, milkthecow.com.au
La Formaggeria, 72 Acland St, St Kilda, 9534 1111, laformaggeria.com.au
Richmond Hill Cafe and Larder, 48-50 Bridge Rd, Richmond, 9421 2808, rhcl.com.au
La Latteria, 104 Elgin St, Carlton, 9347 9009, lalatteria.com.au
Harper and Blohm, 80 Primrose St, Essendon, 9370 6428, harperandblohm.com
Get browsing at the Dairy Hall at the Queen Victoria Market and check out the range at Bill's Farm. Prahran Market offers a plethora of sellers, including the Cheese Shop Deli, Pete n Rosie's and Delicatess. South Melbourne Market's Emerald Hill Deli has a beautiful cool cheese room at the back, where shelves groan and recommendations are expert. And don't forget to hit up your local farmers' markets. Keep an eye out for tastings from cheesemakers like Holy Goat, Lochelian and BoatShed, depending on the market.
Queen Victoria Market, corner of Victoria and Elizabeth Streets, Melbourne, 9320 5822, qvm.com.au
South Melbourne Market, corner of York, Cecil and Coventry Streets, South Melbourne, 9209 6295, southmelbournemarket.com.au
Prahran Market, 163 Commercial Rd, South Yarra, 8290 8220, prahranmarket.com.au
Farmers' Markets, vicfarmersmarkets.org.au
Where to learn about it
Most fromageries run masterclasses on different aspects of cheese or will host feature nights with visiting international cheesemakers. If you want to take it to the next level and make your own cheese, you can enrol in a two-day intensive at Cheesemaking in Brighton. Heading out of town, Milawa Cheese Company in north eastern Victoria, runs home cheese making classes on the first Saturday of every month, as well as producing its own range of cheese.
Intensive cheesemaking course, cheesemaking.com.au
Milawa Cheese Company, 17 Factory Lane, Milawa, 5727 3589
Where to eat it
All the fromageries above offer dine-in cheese boards, but Milk the Cow recently started evenings called Chefs at the Cow – stellar chefs let loose on the cheese cabinet. Recent chefs have included Daniel Wilson of Huxtable, Andrew Logan of Mamasita and Christy Tania from Om Nom Dessert Bar. (Joseph Vargetto from Mr Bianco is next up on September 29).
On the third Wednesday of each month, Malvern's Allium hosts "Hump Day Cheese" – four selected cheeses selected to go with four feature beverages, while hatted restaurant Merricote in Northcote tweets which cheeses they are featuring on that evening's cheese trolley.
Allium Food and Wine, 12-18 Claremont Ave, Malvern, 9576 0356. allium.com.au
Merricote, 81 High St, Northcote, 9939 4762. merricote.com.au
An out of town cheese adventure
Once you start to really get into artisanal cheese, a gourmet road trip will beckon and you really will start to taste the land in the cheese – the time of year, whether the animal has been eating spring grass or autumn hay; your taste buds will do the traveling for you.
There are many gourmet cheese companies not too far afield from Melbourne, many with beautiful, rustic tasting rooms. Aim for Timboon and its surrounds and you'll discover L'Artisan and, further afield, Apostle Whey.
Down on the Mornington Peninsula there's a plethora of tastings available, including Red Hill Cheese and the Main Ridge Dairy which specialises in goat's cheese – and where you can see kid goats frolicking in the paddocks outside.
L'Artisan Cheese, 23 Ford and Fells Rd, Timboon, 5598 3244, lartisancheese.com.au
Apostle Whey, 9 Gallum Rd, Cooriemungle, 5598 7367, apostlewheycheese.com.au
Red Hill Cheese, 81 William Rd, Red Hill, 5989 2035, redhillcheese.com.au
Main Ridge Dairy, 295 Main Creek Rd, Main Ridge, 5989 6622, mainridgedairy.com.au