Australia, maybe more specifically Melbourne, has a thriving coffee culture. You might even go so far as to say it is the epicentre of coffee trends. Talk of the ‘Third Wave’ last year described the development and progression of new ways to brew coffee in order to coax out the complexities and subtleties from the roasted beans.
The wine and beer worlds have seen similar developments, with moves by producers towards more unique, innovative brews.
Winemaking has seen the development of ‘natural wines’, admittedly a vague and undefined term, but one that sees minimal handling and minimal treatment as its calling card. Exponents see themselves as facilitators rather than producers, allowing the fruit to express itself fully in the final wine.
Brewers have gone in two directions. Some to traditional methods, seeking out locally grown ingredients to produce unique, local brews. Others have pushed the envelope, thinking outside the box to create new and innovative brews – matured in whisky barrels for example.
In all of these cases invariably it is led not only by technological knowhow and wizardry, but by an acknowledgment and demand for raw materials that are immaculately produced. A holistic approach to production combined with an increasing importance placed on social and environmental sustainability has resulted in an ever wider array of interesting products that define themselves by their ethical and ecological stories.
Organic, biodynamic, fairtrade, carbon neutral,minimal filtering, ‘natural wines’, the list goes on.
So what about Australian CHEESE?
I think we might be about to enter that Third Wave.
Australia has a short cheesemaking history, dominated by industrial, factory production with export as a major driving force.
In the early 1980′s the pioneers of the commercial farmhouse and artisanal cheesemaking industry began to surface. Laurie Jensen and Richard Thomas at Tarago, the Heidi Farm cheeses, Gabrielle Kervella, the Camerons at Meredith, Milawa, etc.
The further development and expansion of this side of the market has been stunted by politics and regulation, whilst our cousins in the UK and USA have seen amazing growth into a rich and diverse cheese scene.
However, even just in the last few months, I get the feeling there is a groundswell forming – a new breed of younger cheesemakers and mongers who haven’t been exposed to the politics and who are are massively motivated and positive about the future of the industry.
There is a long way to go, in particular with producers making cheese that truly speaks of a time and place, and of consumers really understanding that cheese is a living, breathing thing.
How exciting is it though, that we are about to see the release of a magazine dedicated to all things cheese in Australia. Of the news of a brand new cheeseshop in Melbourne. Of the performance of Australian cheesemongers competing at the Cheesemonger Invitational in New York. Of the Aussie judges at the World Cheese Awards in the UK, and the success of Aussie producers at the same event.
Perhaps the groundswell is finally here for the development of an industry that is truly innovative and exciting, and that can be supported by increased awareness and knowledge all along the chain, from makers, distributors, retailers and consumers.
I for one cannot wait for 2012 – it looks like its going to be very, very cheesy.