If cheese is your thing, then like me, a chance to sample new varieties of the stuff while you’re travelling is one temptation that will be impossible to resist is the New Zealand cheese trail. Here’s the lowdown on New Zealand cheese tourism.
Follow the New Zealand cheese trail
The New Zealand Cheesemakers Association is so passionate about its produce that it has created its own New Zealand cheese trail. From Kerikeri in the north to Invercargill in the south, there’s a stop that will be convenient wherever your New Zealand vacation takes you. At Barry’s Bay traditional cheese, it’s often possible to watch the cheese being made via a glass window; when nothing’s happening, they’ll put on a DVD for you instead. The Whitestone Cheese Co in Oamaru will let you have a nose around their blue cheese maturation room while the Gibbston valley Cheese Co just outside Queenstown offer free cheese tastings. For more information – and inspiration – visit the New Zealand Cheesemakers Association’s website.
Sample the finest artisan cheese at farmers’ markets
Many small producers have a regular and loyal clientele nurtured over many years of selling their produce at farmers’ markets. Across the country, there are a huge number of farmers’ markets where you can not only try samples, but chat to the cheese makers themselves. Head for Tauranga where you’ll find Mount Eliza Cheese. Their raw milk Red Leicester has made quite an impact since it first hit their stall in May 2015.
Try a cheese making course
Several outfits offer cheese making courses. A two-day course is held at regular intervals by Jean Mansfield at her farm near Waihi in the Bay of Plenty as well as at Oatahuhu just outside Auckland. Upcoming courses offer the opportunity for beginners to learn how to make Dutch Gouda and white-rinded Camembert. Those with a bit of experience can progress to make blue-veined semi-soft cheese and stretched curd mozzarella. If you’re hoping to get really serious, the New Zealand Cheese School in Putaruru, midway between Taupo and Auckland, offer five day courses. Under the guidance of master cheese maker Neil Willman, you’ll learn enough about the art of cheese making to set yourself up when you get home. The next course is due to be held in August 2017 which leaves you plenty of time to save up and book those airfares.
Cows, goats or sheep?
Much of New Zealand’s cheese has typically been made using cows’ milk, but in the last couple of decades the county has woken up to the possibilities arising from other types of milk such as goat’s milk, ewe’s milk and even buffalo. It’s only very recently that New Zealand Sheep Breeders Association has formally recognised a milking sheep breed. In 2016, the establishment of the DairyMeade breed solely for milking cements the claim that ewe’s milk is especially suited to cheese making, as well as the production of yoghurt and other dairy products. To see which you prefer, you can visit the Kingsmeade farm near Masterton, New Zealand where owners Miles and Janet King have created a range of fourteen different types of cheese, all delicious.