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Wine and Cheese Fest – Meat Market, North Melbourne

17th March 2018

Words  by Celeste Iuliano

Images Courtesy of Thomas Bindley

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It’s early on St Patrick’s Day, and a buzzing crowd is starting to gather on the street outside North Melbourne’s iconic Meat Market. Usually they’d be heading to the pub next door for a beer, but this year they’ll be toasting with something less traditional – wine!

This is my second year at the Wine and Cheese Fest, and I’m excited to see which exhibitors have returned and whether there are any new faces in the hall. If there’s one thing that hasn’t changed though, it’s the atmosphere. You’d be forgiven for thinking that a wine and cheese festival would attract stuffy food snobs, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. There’s a diverse crowd buzzing around the stalls, and it’s easy to get drawn into a conversation about grape varieties and cheese pairings without feeling like you need to have done some prior reading. 

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So, the only thing I have to worry about today is deciding what to try first! To cover more ground, my boyfriend and agree to split up –he’ll pick the cheese, and I’ll handle the wine. As I head over to Chirping Bird for samples of their shiraz and rosé muscat, he wanders over to Tolpuddle Goat Cheese. I’m expecting him to bring back one or two cheeses, but he returns with a tasting platter of their range. “I made an executive decision.” Good thinking. We’re surprised by how varied goat milk cheese can be; we try hard versions for grating, the Bonegilla which is similar to a spiced feta, and the delicious Marinated Gem which is steeped in extra virgin olive oil with lemon myrtle and juniper berries. Round 1 of tastings hasn’t disappointed.

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Next I lead us over to Politini wines, whose Nero d’Avola is drawing some attention. This dark red wine is made with Sicilian grapes, and has a rich, spicy flavour with notes of cherry. While we’re here, we’re very easily tempted to try one of their whites as well. We pick the Grecanico, a delicate wine with notes of almond and lemon. This second choice goes particularly well with the cheese my bf has selected from The Cheese Rebels. These artisans produce bold and unique cheeses from Germany, Austria and Australia. Among the standouts today are the Elderflower Cheese and the Mountain Herb – flavours unlike anything we’ve tried before.

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In fact, while traditional favourites can always be found at the Fest, there’s a lot of exciting experimentation happening as well. The Edge Brewing Project’s Cuvee is a great example. Sauv blanc grapes are fermented on skins for 62 days, and are then combined with a farmhouse ale to produce a surprisingly delicious beer/wine hybrid. Similarly, CherryHill Orchard is pushing the envelope by using their extra produce to create delicious, cherry-based drinks. Worth trying are the Cherry Vanilla Porter, a dark and robust beer, and the Cherry Cider, a lighter, fruitier option.

By the end of our session, we’ve visited over 30 exhibitors and have formulated a shopping list including all of our new favourites. We leave with big smiles on our faces, excited to discover more next year – cheers!

**Celeste was a guest of the Wine & Cheese Fest – thanks to Sotir Stojcevski

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Connie Lambeth

The Australia Times News

Editor GOURMET – Food/Wine/Events

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connie.lambeth@theaustraliatimes.com.au

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Photo Courtesy of Wine & Cheese Fest
Photo Courtesy of
Wine & Cheese Fest (2017)