Did you know?
The very first South African National Cheese Festival was held at Bien Donne Farm in April 2002.
Artisanal cheese is the new buzzword in foodie circles, and South Africa certainly has a few great places where good artisanal cheese is produced.
According to Kobus Mulder, author of Cheeses of South Africa, the industry has experienced a major transformation. 'In recent years, South Africa has seen something of a revolution in cheese-making.' he says. 'In the past, consumers had a limited range of cheeses to choose from, but the rise of artisanal cheese-making has changed this picture.'
He points out that consumers have also become more knowledgeable and aware of the great variety of cheeses on offer.
The Western Cape has a number of wonderful cheese-makers. You can try Fairview, known for its award-winning goat's cheeses, while the Simonsberg area, well known for its wines, is also now well known for quality cheeses, including feta and mozzarella from the estate in Stellenbosch.
Dalewood Fromage Estate Cheese is another popular estate that produces incredible cheese products, with cheese-maker Rob Visser at the helm. Its six-month-old Huguenot Cheese walked off with top honours at the 2013 Qualite Dairy Product of the Year Awards.
Also look out for Adian Pomario's pecorino cheese in Hoekwil; Brenda Shelley's and Jacquie Weilenmann's Alpine goat's cheese from Dragonfly Farm in Napier (Overberg); and Wayne Rademeyer's very special Buffalo Ridge mozzarella.
Ganzvlei farm in Knysna is owned and run by Chris Meterlerkamp and produces a great cheddar, while Gay's Guernsey Dairy, the pride of Gay van Hasselt in Prince Albert (along Route 62), is known for its delicious cheeses. Dairy farmer Eckard Leicher of La Montanara runs a small cheesery in the Breede River Valley – he took top honours in a local cheese-maker challenge for his delicious Royal Ashton cheese.
In KwaZulu-Natal, Chrissie's Country Cheese is run by one of the local cheese doyennes, Chrissie Briscoe. Chrissie's Blue, Chrissie's Rainbow Nation and Chrissie's Ayrby are all created on Galtee More Farm in Richmond in the KwaZulu-Midlands. Indezi River Cheese company, run by Wendy Harris and Barbara Robertshaw, is known for both its goat's- and cow's-milk cheeses. Swissland Cheese, owned by Fran Isaac, is known for exceptional goat's cheeses in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands.
In Gauteng, Belnori Boutique Cheesery has certainly made its mark. The brainchild of Norman and Rina Blecher on their farm in Bapsfontein, Belnori has won numerous awards. You can also try Goat Peter cheesery and Hijke cheesery, both successful boutique cheese operations.
The fine art of cheese-making is certainly growing in South Africa.