Like two peas in a pod, wine and cheese were made for each other. Soulmates, you could say, like Batman and Robin, Romeo and Juliet, peanut butter and jelly, cats and a Friday night in.
While wine pairing often comes secondary to food and is chosen to complement the edible, for this scrumptious selection we’re showcasing a range of Victorian wines, and picking the perfect cheeses to match the drops.
Laura Lown, Cheesemonger from Milk the Cow, helped us out with her extensive collection and even wider knowledge base around the dairy delights. Impressing us with an array of cheeses from Spain, France, the Netherlands, USA and, closer to home, the Yarra Valley, we couldn’t have been more impressed by her pairings.
Milk the Cow first opened its doors in St Kilda in 2012 as a fromagerie with a cellar door experience, and by popular demand, a second store in Carlton appeared in 2014. The selection is huge, with tastes ranging from sweet to salty to extremely pungent and blue veins abundant (epic). The experience at Milk the Cow is even greater due to the cheese flights on offer, with boards matched with beverages ranging from wine, beer, cider, whisky, fortifieds, and even sake.
Lown has been working in cheese for 13 years, previously in the UK. When she arrived in Melbourne, Milk the Cow Owner Daniel Verheyen got in touch prior to opening the initial establishment. “I’m opening a fromagerie, but it’s really unlike any other fromagerie”, Verheyen told Lown. She laughs about her scepticism of being sold the dream, until she realised how fresh the concept was at the time.
Having been a cheesemonger at Milk the Cow since day one, she’s seen the business evolve and expand the flights and offering, including reaching out into masterclasses, catering, fondue nights, chef dinners and winemaker, brewer and distiller events. “Some would say I have a hard job,” Lown says, sarcasm clearly apparent in the statement, and in the obvious enjoyment she gets from being in the industry.
While the majority of the offering at Milk the Cow is French, which Lown attributes to coming from a country that’s been making cheese for centuries, 15% is Australian, which she considers quite an achievement given their process for selecting the product. “We really want to focus on top quality cheeses, and cheese you can’t just get everywhere,” Lown says. Keep an eye out for the Norwegian Gjetost, a sweet caramelised whey that Lown calls the ‘breakfast cheese’, and it goes brilliantly with coffee. Lown’s tip for a unique and lovely, lesser-known cheese is the Fleur de Maquis from Corsica.
When selecting these ten Victorian wines, we purposefully chose a range in terms of style, region and price. While we don’t claim these to be the best wines in Victoria – as we strongly believe wine is a subjective pleasure to be enjoyed by each person individually – we do believe that if you enjoy a drop now and then, then there’s something for you in this list, and a darn fine cheese to pair with your next bottle.
“There’s no right or wrong,” Lown tells us, when it comes to cheese and wine pairings. While there are guidelines to follow, there’s many different paths to go down, she explains: “You can complement, cut through, or contrast flavours.” A definite handy tip she shares is; “Whatever grows together, goes together”, as well as thinking about other complementary flavours: “If you’ve got a pinot noir which is like strawberries, put a cheese which is like cream, and it’s like you’ve created your own little dessert,” she says.
Montara – 2014 Gold Rush Riesling Grampians, $23 Paired with Midnight Moon, USA
The Gold Rush Riesling by Montara in the Grampians is an off-dry soft style with forward, fruity flavours of lime, lemon rind and a talcy touch. Lown recommends with the higher acidity found in Riesling; “It would be nice to match it with something really clean, milky and silky, which is Midnight Moon from America.”
Midnight Moon is an aged goat’s milk gouda, and though the recipe is from the Netherlands, this one is produced in California. A sweet, mild and milky cheese, it also holds floral and fruity tones that balance well against the weight of the riesling, without overpowering, but rather enhancing the aromatics.
Oakridge – 2014 864 Chardonnay, Funder & Diamond Vineyard, Drive Block Yarra Valley, $78 Paired with White Savourine, Yarra Valley, Australia
Chief Winemaker at Oakridge, David Bicknell tells us that although the Yarra Valley was historically a Cabernet region, “The best wines that have been coming out of the valley consistently in the last ten years, have probably been chardonnay.” The Funder & Diamond is the highest of the vineyards at Oakridge, and Bicknell tells us, “It’s one of those just right scenarios: It faces north, it’s close planted, it’s mature, planted in 1990.”
The richness and depth of the Oakridge 864 Chardonnay makes it pretty special, with white stone fruits, flint and toast, to smooth vanilla, brioche and poached quince. “It’s the most important wine that we currently produce.” Says Bicknell.
For the cheese, Lown chose the Yarra Valley White Savourine. “I’ve gone with that whole, whatever grows together, goes together.” She says. “It’s [the White Savourine] known for having this high acidity, and it’s really nutty and toasty.” This complements the creamy nuttiness of the Oakridge Chardonnay, and holds it’s own against the stone fruit depth and weight.
Yering Station – 2015 Chardonnay Yarra Valley, $40 Paired with Queso de Cabra, Spain
The Yering Station 2015 Chardonnay has a nose of stone fruits and sweet spices, but it was the cashews that drew Lown’s attention, leading her to suggest the Spanish cheese, which is an: “Amazing aged goat’s milk from Spain, called Queso de Cabra. It’s literally like brioche, cashew and macadamia. So I thought, let’s play off the whole nuttiness,” says Lown. With the creamy, mild palate and toasty vanillin spice of the wine, the cheese is quite unctuous, she says, making a perfectly rich match.
Blue Range Estate – 2015 Pinot Grigio Mornington Peninsula, $30 Paired with Buffalo Mozzarella, Italy
The Blue Range Estate Pinot Grigio is medium bodied with strong aroma and taste of pear, with a crisp and subtle finish. Lown tells us that when it’s quite light in body, you want something texturally to balance that. Buffalo Mozzarella is rich and high in protein and fat, so it’s going to coat your palate nicely.
“Because it’s so light, it [the cheese] should enhance the fact that the wine has amazing pear notes running through it,” Lown says. The crispness of the Pinot Grigio suits the young age of the cheese, which leaves it light and fresh, playing off each other well.
Patrick Sullivan – Pink Pound Rose 2016 Elinbank & Taggerty, $30 Paired with La Tur, Italy
Lown loved the description of Patrick Sullivan’s Pink Pound Rose, which states that the crisp drop is; “more flamboyant than Freddy Mercury”. “So what’s more indulgent than a blend of three milks?” says Lown. From Piedmont in Italy, this cheese gets richness from cow’s milk, nuttiness from goat’s milk, and sweetness from sheep’s milk. “Really, it’s like a cheesecake,” Lown laughs, stating it even looks like a little cupcake. The pinot noir is pressed off early for a light colour, then a little gewürztraminer is added back in, with limited interference to preserve the integrity of the fruit in this fresh rosé. Sullivan tells us it’s perfect drinking for a “Sunny day with oysters and cigarettes in SOHO”.
Polperro – 2015 Even Keel Pinot Noir Mornington Peninsula, $35 Paired with Beaufort d’Alpage, France
Another Pinot Noir from the Mornington Peninsula, the Polperro Even Keel Pinot Noir boasts cherries and raspberries alongside earthy notes, supple tannins and a fine acidity, with potential to cellar until 2018. “It’s really juicy but then it’s got a really fine texture,” says Lown. “Hill spice, bramble: It’s got so many characteristics going on. There’s this cheese which is a raw milk cheese from the Savoie; Beaufort d’Alpage.
“Usually the French say when you try these styles of cheeses, you’re meant to pick up about 80 plus flavour characteristics. I thought there’s so much going on in there, you need something which is going to stand up to it and not get lost.”
Lown explains that the cows feed in summer, digesting strawberries, buttercups, thistles, plums, daisies and raspberries, and apparently you don’t lose those flavours. “It’s big and bold… and very similar to everything going on in here [the wine]” she says. The cheese is smooth, not cheddary, enhancing the fine tannins of the pinot.
Terindah Estate – 2013 Single Vineyard Reserve Pinot Noir Bellarine Peninsula, $80 Paired with Ossau Iraty, France
The 2013 Single Vineyard Reserve Pinot Noir from Terindah Estate has a rose and fruit aroma, followed with complex leather and mineral taste. Classic pinot earthiness with savoury meat, cranberry, rhubarb and sweet cherry combine with silky tannins in this light red wine.
Lown has paired this drop with the Ossau Iraty from France. “Sheep’s milk is renowned for having a higher fat content in the milk, so you get this smooth texture, this elasticity as it’s aged. But then you get this subtler caramel and green olive kind of nutty undertones coming through,” says Lown. With pinot noirs you’ve got to be careful, she informs us, to choose quite mild cheeses to ensure you don’t lose the body of the delicate wine, and rather lift it.
Zonzo Estate – 2015 Shiraz Yarra Valley, $55 Paired with Epoisses, France
2015 was the first vintage of the Zonzo Estate wines, and what a ripper it was. The Estate Shiraz is bold and velvety, and showcases the attributes of a cool climate Shiraz really well. The fine persistent tannin sits hand in hand with red berries and liquorice, making a bright but dense and complex red wine that can be cellared up to 2023.
While Lown admits that usually you may classically match gouda or cheddar with a shiraz, the smokiness and suggested pairing with slow-cooked meat led her to choose the Epoisses from France. Washed in brandy, it was created by monks as an alternative to meat. “So I thought let’s play on that, and match it with the cheese that tastes like charcuterie. We used to nickname it the bacon cheese. It’s salty, silky, milky, full and big and it’s really going to stand up to this Shiraz.”
Scion Winery – 2014 Single Vineyard After Dark (Fortified Durif) Rutherglen, $29 Paired with Reypenaer V.S.O.P., Netherlands
Scion Winery in Rutherglen produces a delightfully smooth, single vineyard fortified durif called After Dark. Medium sweet, this style is inspired by south-eastern France and it can be served chilled or at room temperature. Reminiscent of plum liqueur, fruit cake and chocolate; while sweet and smooth, it’s not sticky or thick like other syrupy fortifieds.
Lown is excited to tell us about this pairing. “There is this amazing cheese that people when they come in here, they fall in love with,” she says. The two-year-old Dutch Gouda is called Reypenaer V.S.O.P…Although a blue would work well, this wild card is like butterscotch and caramel, a real dessert match”, says Lown. Side note: this cheese was the fast favourite for us.
MILK THE COW 157 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda 323 Lygon Street, Carlton