The Basics of Australian Cheese2014 Jan 17 | Written by: Zye Angiwan |
Australian cheese has always prided itself on its excellent quality and diversity of flavours. Made from the freshest milk of pasture-fed cows, Australian cheese has been rapidly gaining worldwide notice in recent years. A rich, cream yellow as opposed to Europe’s paler cheeses, Australian cheeses are a wonderful example of the nation’s best in local produce. With a steady increase in both exports and domestic sales, Australian cheesemakers are constantly innovating and experimenting to provide the most delicious cheeses on the international market.
Whether used in a recipe or served on paddleboards at social gatherings, cheeses are guaranteed to please the palate. Here’s a quick guide to the different kinds of Australian cheese and a few suggestions for accompaniments and wine.
Kinds of Cheese, Accompaniments and Wine
Australian cheeses are generally categorised as listed below. Each category is represented by cheese varieties according to maturity, cheesemaking process, ingredients and so on. Finding the right accompaniments for each kind of cheese can be tricky, especially for the uninitiated. Just keep in mind that accompaniments for cheese should be kept simple yet elegant – the idea is to enhance the flavours of the cheese and not overpower them.
Matching the right wine to each kind of cheese is a bit more difficult. This requires a balance, as each wine is as unique as each cheese. The best method to finding the perfect kind of wine is to experiment and remember that flavours should complement, not clash. Listed here are some suggestions for accompaniments and wine for each cheese category to help would-be hosts in navigating this particular situation.
Fresh Unripened Cheese
These are the simplest of all cheeses. Smooth in texture and with no rind, fresh unripened cheese have a milky flavour, have high moisture content, low in fat and have a short shelf life. Examples are cottage cheese, cream cheese, mascarpone, feta cheese. These kind of cheeses are best served with olive bread, olives, olive oil, fresh herbs and berries, prosciutto, anchovies, capers along with light, refreshing wines to complement the cheeses’ delicate flavours like Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, cool climate Shiraz or dessert wines.
Stretched Curd Cheese
Also called “string cheese” or “spun cord,” there are various kinds of stretched curd cheese according to the amount of moisture in each cheese, as well as size and shape. Examples include both fresh and aged mozzarella, Bocconcini, Caciocavallo. Accompaniments and wines to serve with stretched curd cheese are similar to those for fresh unripened cheese.
White Mould Cheese
Characterised by a velvety white rind, fully ripened white mould cheese should be creamy in texture when cut. It takes a minimum of 6 weeks for white mould cheese to fully ripen. Shelf life is up to 70 days. Examples are Brie, Camembert, triple cream cheese, ashed white mould log. White mould cheeses go well with crisp baguettes, quince paste, grapes or figs, poached pears, water crackers. White Mould Cheese complements a variety of wine styles, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Semillon, sparkling wine or warm climate Shiraz.
Washed Rind Cheese
Among the strongest-smelling cheeses, washed rind cheeses are known for their bright red/orange rind. With a mild, sweet and earthy flavour, washed rind cheeses vary from soft to firm. Washed rind cheeses can be served with pears, bitter greens, hazelnuts, fruit bread, rye or raisin bread, sultanas. Washed rind cheese can be a bit tricky to match with wine, but these cheeses usually go best with full-bodied and sweet wines such as Pinot Noir, dessert wines, Grenache, sparkling reds and beer.
Semi-Hard Cheese (Cheddar and Cheddar Styles)
The world’s most well-known kind of cheese is cheddar – also Australia’s most popular. Semi-hard cheeses are classified from mild to vintage, depending on maturity. Examples are Red Leicester, rindless cheddar, waxed cheddar. Cheddar and cheddar style cheeses go best with chutney, sourdough biscuits, oatmeal or wholemeal bread, fruit cakes, quince paste, celery, muscatels. Cheddar and cheddar style cheeses suit many types of wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Semillon, dessert and fortified wines.
Made popular in Australia by European settlers, eye cheese can be either hard cooked or semi-cooked. Eye cheese are known for their smooth, satiny texture and “eyes” or holes that form in the body as the cheese ripens. Examples include Gruyere, Gouda, Raclette, Swiss cheese. Eye cheeses can be served melted with peaches, sweet potatoes or smoked meats or plated with dried fruit, pickles and gherkins. Eye cheeses are versatile and can be paired with any good wine.
There are 22 different kinds of blue cheese currently made in Australia. A mould ripened cheese, blue cheeses have a crusty rind and a pungent smell. Textures and flavours vary according to the way the cheese is made. Examples are Blue Cheshire, Danish Style Blue, Gorgonzola Style Blue. Blue cheeses are best served with walnuts, fresh or roasted pears, quince paste, fresh figs or dates, toasted walnut bread, almond biscotti, wild honey. Sweet wines are the best matches for blue cheese to complement its salty flavour, so Riesling, Gewurztraminer or dessert wines would be best.
With a very low moisture content, hard cheeses have the longest shelf life among all cheeses. Aged hard cheese can turn slightly gritty. Examples are Romano, Parmesan, Pecorino. Hard cheeses go well with apples, pears, tomatoes, rocket, chutney, grapes, walnuts, olives, prosciutto. Intense wines such as Chardonnay, Semillon, Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot are a good match for hard cheeses.