By Melissa Keogh
Barossa Valley artisan producer Victoria McClurg has come a long way in her cheesemaking pursuits since crafting her first ever camembert in 2003 at home at the kitchen sink.
Now her Barossa Valley Cheese Co has settled into its new fit out after a near $1m expansion that has increased the business’ total footprint threefold.
Staff numbers have also more than doubled to 18 people.
Victoria says the expansion, which kicked off in 2014 and was boosted by a $200,000 Regional Development Fund grant, was necessary as the cheese tasting premises often reached visitor capacity.
The production cellar had also outgrown its facilities, she says.
“We were at a point where we couldn’t fit everyone … it was pretty intense,” she says.
“We’re now offering innovative opportunities for visitors that we weren’t able to provide before, which brings people to our business and contributes to the regional community.”
Barossa Valley Cheese Co has diversified from an earlier focus on only soft cheeses to include semi-matured varieties.
Production now reaches up to 10,000 litres a week, with milk sourced from the Nietschke dairy farm north of Angaston.
“The Nietschke family enable us to use 100% Barossa cows’ milk for the authenticity and integrity of our flagship products,” Victoria says.
Victoria originally studied winemaking and travelled to Bordeaux, France, where she claimed a new appreciation for premium food and wine experiences.
Like Adelaide, Bordeaux is part of the Great Wine Capital Network, an exclusive cluster of nine cities which are internationally recognised wine regions.
But instead of falling deeper in love with wine while in Bordeaux, Victoria found her calling – cheese.
“Life was so simple in Bordeaux, everyone would sit down with friends and family, just enjoying being in each other’s company with a fresh bowl of produce in front of them,” Victoria says.
“That’s what I wanted in my life when I came back to Australia.”
Upon her return to Australia, Victoria moved to Angaston in 2003 and began “experimenting at home at the kitchen sink” with cheesemaking.
She soon mastered the craft and launched Barossa Valley Cheese Co in the main street of Angaston with her mother, Frances.
By 2008 their cheese had been crowned grand champion at the Australasian Cheese Competition for two consecutive years.
Over time Victoria has built a reputation for her washed rind cheeses, in particular the ‘bitey’ Barossa Washrind.
Her philosophy is to “keep culture alive by bringing heroes to the table and using what we have got”.
This mantra is evident in her loyalty to the local dairy industry and her integration of other Barossa products into the cheese cellar door experience.
“We offer cheese pairings with local wines, cider, beer, gin and tea,” Victoria says.
“The Barossa has an amazing reputation for its offerings.
“We aim to keep the culture and diversity alive.”
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