In 2021 our Movers and Breakers conference is flying to the wine and food heartland of Australia, the Barossa, South Australia. To celebrate, we caught up with Business Chicks member Victoria McClurg who has our dream job as a professional cheesemaker!
Victoria, hi! You discovered your love of cheese when making wine in Bordeaux, France (talk about dream scenario!) Can you tell us about this experience?
I’ve always loved food, but little did I know that my palate was yet to experience the sensory overload of texture and flavour available in regional France. The village I lived in was extremely welcoming of ‘flying winemakers’ and every day for lunch, we would sit down to a four course meal that always ended with cheese. It was all made within a 20 kilometre radius, generally by small artisan producers. That was eye opening for me because it hadn’t been part of my upbringing back in Adelaide. Simple cheeses tasted exceptionally unique dependant on the farm. It was truly the most wonderful experience and definitely hooked me into the world of fromage.
Tell us about how you founded The Barossa Valley Cheese Company, and what sets it apart?
When I decided to head back to Australia, I landed in the stunning Barossa Valley. With hundreds of wineries, it was straightforward finding work in the wine industry, but my taste buds wanted more. I desperately wanted to bring back the experience from regional France. When I didn’t see any cheesemakers in the area, and saw dairy farmers walking off their properties, I took it as my sign to make a change. We don’t just make any cheese, ours are inspired by the traditional French varieties and made using local milk from the cows and goats of our neighbours. We’ve used single dairy herd milk from day one, which at the time was unique for cheese made in South Australia.
What really sets us apart is that all our cheeses are handmade with the perspective of a winemaker, so we can guarantee what they’ll complement perfectly.
What have been some of the challenges you’ve faced in business and how have you overcome them?
Juggling all the moving parts in a food business is probably the most challenging but equally the most rewarding part of our business. The simple strategies work best for me – making decisions based on the information available at the time and adapting when new information arises. In my mind, it’s okay to change the journey as long as we keep heading towards our bigger picture, which is to Keep Cultures Alive, not only in cheese but in the diversity of cultures across our community.
What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
The buzz when we won the Australian Grand Dairy Awards was a moment I’ll always remember very fondly. It was back in 2006, so we were still the new kids on the block, up against the big players who had been making cheese for decades. I was so proud of our team. All the hours, effort and care that we put into those little cheese. We were the smallest producer to win the award at that time, and when we won for a second year, I knew we had produced a regional product our community could be proud of.
What are you excited about right now for the year ahead?
If we can take some positives from the past 12 months, we’ve seen a huge surge in Aussies exploring their own backyards. It’s such a thrill to be able to share our part of the world. People are seeking out products that are authentic, locally made, and Australian owned. We get to be part of that and share our story with every person who visits our Cheesecellar.
Business Chicks is heading to the Barossa in May and we can’t wait! Aside from you’re Cheesecellar, what should we add to our itinerary?
Where do I start?! When I think of the Barossa, it’s all about the food, wine and views. Here are a few of my favourites:
- For views – Steingarten Vineyard lookout, Menglers Hill, Seppeltsfield Memorial
- To eat – El Estanco in Greenock, Lou Miranda Estate in Rowland flat, David Franz Wines in Tanunda, Fino Seppeltsfield
- For a caffeine hit – Casa Carboni in Angaston
- When you need a break from wine – Seppeltsfield Road Distillers
You’re the only cheesemaker in the region (which makes you the authority!), so tell us, what cheese is a must-add for our grazing tables?
Absolutely without a doubt, our Triple Cream. It’s made in a traditional style which means it’s mild with a chalky pate when young. If you can resist and let it age and mature for a few weeks, it will become oozy and a little bit unctuous, especially with a glass of Riesling.