Australia's best cheese 2016 and 2017: Finalists from the Australian Grand Dairy Awards 2017

Ian Fowler of Bay of Fires in Tasmania is again in the running for "best cheddar".
Ian Fowler of Bay of Fires in Tasmania is again in the running for "best cheddar". Photo: Chris Crerar

Cheese-makers from around the country sent their best products to Melbourne last month for the annual Grand Dairy Awards. The below cheeses have made the cut to be considered "best in class" with the winners for each category to be announced in February 2017. 

Fresh unripened

Montefiore Cheese, Montefiore Trecce

This trecce, meaning 'braid' in Italian, is a hand-stretched and plaited cheese, with a milky, mild flavour and a firm, fibrous texture. It is one of a range of specialist Italian-style cheeses from artisan producers Montefiore, based in Thomastown, Victoria. 

That's Amore Cheese, That's Amore Cheese Burrata

Cut through the outer layer of mozzarella, it's obvious why this cheese is called burrata (meaning 'buttered' in Italian). The inside is full of seasoned cream and stretched curd, with a soft and buttery centre - delicious with crusty bread or on its own with olive oil.

La Vera Fine Cheese Producers, La Vera Pure Whey Ricotta

Ian Fowler outside his Tasmanian cheese "factory" - a shipping container.
Ian Fowler outside his Tasmanian cheese "factory" - a shipping container. Photo: Chris Crerar

La Vera uses pure whey to make this soft and creamy ricotta, with fine delicate grains which melt in the mouth. Its sweet and delicate flavour means it makes an idea pasta filling or savoury sauce, but is equally delicious served with fruits or jams.

White mould

Lion Dairy & Drinks, King Island Dairy Black Label Double Brie

Lion Dairy's delicately hand-crafted Black Label Double Brie combines flavour, aroma and beauty. Produced on King Island, Tasmania, each wheel of this artisan brie is made under the guidance of head cheesemaker, Swiss-born Ueli Berger, who has over 25 years of experience in the industry.

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Lactalis Group, Emporium Triple Cream Brie

Lactalis Group's Emporium Triple Cream Brie is a full-flavoured French-style cheese which is hand-crafted in Gippsland, Victoria. Its unique velvety, smooth and extra-creamy texture makes it an ideal cheese to eat with crackers and quince paste.  

Unicorn Cheese, Nowra Farmhouse Triple Cream Brie

This delicious velvety and bold brie is produced in Nowra, New South Wales, a farming community sustained by its thriving dairy industry. Its lush creamy centre has a slightly nutty flavour, and the soft white mould on the outside lends the brie a slight earthy aroma.

Semi hard and eye

Lion Dairy, Heidi Farm Raclette

Heidi Farm Raclette's intense perfume and mild nutty, milky flavour is achieved through washing the rind with a brevi bacterium solution for a minimum of four months. Traditionally, this French-style cheese is melted on a raclette burner and eaten with potatoes and pickles.

Lion Dairy & Drinks, Heidi Farm Tilsit

This sumptuous European-style tilsit has a rich, dense texture and a distinctive nutty taste. Typically enjoyed with crusty bread at breakfast time, it can also be melted into sauces, or grilled over vegetables - a versatile cheese that can be used to complement a variety of meals.

Section28 Artisan Cheese, Section28 Artisan Cheeses Monforte

Section28 is a small artisan producer, handcrafting cheeses in South Australia's Adelaide Hills using traditional European methods. While its Monforte flavour isn't overpowering, it's certainly complex. When the cheese is young, its flavours are milky, sweet and fruity, becoming earthier and nuttier as the cheese ages.

Cheddar

Fowlers Cheese, Bay of Fires Cheese Cheddar

At the helm of the Bay of Fires Cheesemakers is Ian Fowler, a 13th-generation cheesemaker. Following the 400-year-old Fowler family method, this Tasmanian cheddar is matured on pine boards for 12 months, giving it a sweet and earthy texture and a beautiful crumbly texture. 

Bega Cheese, Bega Strong & Bitey

Bega's Strong and Bitey is a rich and full-bodied vintage cheddar with a flavour that lives up to its name. Its bold, sharp taste and a distinctive crumbly texture makes this a delicious Australian cheddar.

Bega Cheese, Westacre Extra Tasty

Bega's Westacre Extra Tasty cheddar is matured to achieve an enhanced flavour, but keeps its deliciously smooth texture. Made using entirely Australian-sourced ingredients, this cheddar becomes richer over time.

Hard cheese

Warrnambool Cheese & Butter Factory, Mil Lel Superior Parmesan Cheese

Warrnambool Cheese and Butter's Mil Lel parmesan is made using traditional Italian methods at the company's factory on the iconic Great Ocean Road, Victoria. This parmesan is aged for 18 months, giving it a classic dry crumbly texture and fruity flavour.

La Vera Fine Cheese Producers, La Vera Matured Pecorino

La Vera Matured Pecorino is a traditional Italian-style matured cheese with a distinctive piquant flavour, produced by a family-run business in Newton, South Australia. Made with cow's milk, the addition of carefully selected starter cultures create an authentic, sharp sheep's milk taste.

Ashgrove Cheese, Ashgrove Signature Parmesan

This parmesan is handcrafted and aged for a minimum of 30 months by Ashgrove's master cheesemaker Richard Bennett. Based in the notorious dairying region of Elizabeth Town, Tasmania, the cheese is made from local milk to create a cheese with a soft, clean flavour.

Blue Cheese

Lion Dairy & Drinks, King Island Dairy Roaring Forties Blue

King Island Dairy Roaring Forties Blue has a beautiful network of blue, grey and green moulds throughout the cheese. As part of its production, the cheese is matured in wax, which cuts off the oxygen supply and creates a completely unique sensation of sweet and fruity flavours.

Lion Dairy & Drinks, King Island Dairy Bass Strait Blue

This delicious Danish-style blue vein cheese has a creamy, nearly fudgy texture, offset with a metallic, salty bite and a clean, gentle aftertaste. Combined with crisp focaccia and sweet quince paste, the flavours come into their own.

Berrys Creek Cheese, Berrys Creek Oak Blue

This heavily-veined Gorgonzola-style cheese is produced by Berrys Creek Cheese, a gourmet, family-run business in South Gippsland, Victoria. Aged for three to four months in order to develop its intense flavour, this blue cheese delivers an assault on the senses.

Washed rind and mixed rind

Unicorn Cheese, Emporium Selection Washed Rind

The Emporium Selection Washed Rind is a deliciously creamy cheese, with a rustic, golden colour. It has an earthy but delicate flavour, which is balanced by its gorgeous, pungent aroma.

Unicorn Cheese, Flinders Estate Washed Rind 200g

Flinders Estate's washed rind cheese has a beautiful earthy, complex flavour and a soft, creamy centre. During its production, its rind is washed with a brevi and penicillium bacteria wash to create a traditional, rustic colour and signature powerful scent.

Lion Dairy & Drinks, King Island Dairy Stormy

King Island Dairy's Stormy washed rind is one of the world's strongest smelling yet sweetest tasting cheeses. Its robust aroma is offset by the sweet, earthy and slightly nutty flavour. It is washed with a bacterium brine solution to develop a distinctive red-orange colour.

Flavoured cheese

That's Amore Cheese, That's Amore Cheese Diavoletti

That's Amore's Diavoletti, or little devils, are small provolina-shaped smoked cheeses, with a single chilli-stuffed olive at its centre, in an excellent display of craftsmanship. The balance of the mild cheese, with the salty olive and kick of chilli makes for a wonderful taste sensation.

Barambah Organics, Barambah Organics Labna with Fennel and Sea Salt

Barambah produces its labna with milk produced on its own dairy farm in Goondiwindi, Queensland. A yoghurt cheese, this labna has an incredibly fresh and slightly acidic taste, enhanced by the flavours of fennel and sea salt marinated in oil.

Lion Dairy & Drinks, King Island Dairy Stokes Point Smoked Cheddar

King Island Dairy Stokes Point Smoked Cheddar is a smooth and pliable cheese, naturally smoked with Tasmanian hardwood. The golden rind produced during smoking acts as a natural preservative while the cheese matures for nine months, giving an extra dimension of flavour.

Goats and Sheep's Milk Cheese

Prom Country Cheese, Prom Country Cheese Venus Blue

This delicate, creamy blue-vein sheep cheese is made at the Brandon family farm in South Gippsland, Victoria, using local sheep milk and unique, in-house cultures. Below the grey rind is a moderate spread of blue cavities, which have a good balance of aromas, delicate flavours and a firm, smooth texture.  

Meredith Dairy, Meredith Dairy Chevre Plain

Meredith Dairy is a family-run on-farm enterprise in Meredith, Victoria, and use the sheep's and goat's milk from their farm to create their selection of delicious cheeses. Their versatile plain goat's cheese has a fresh and sharp flavour, perfect for crackers, pizzas, pastas and salads.

Frolicking Goat, Frolicking Goat Buche

Frolicking Goat Bûche is a matured semi-soft goat's cheese, with a firm and creamy texture. Its flavour is rich but slightly salty, with a fruity, tangy undertone. Very adaptable, this cheese makes a wonderful addition to a cheeseboard, antipasti, or melted with roast vegetables.

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