Our weekend getaway got off to a flying start at the Yarra Valley De Bortoli Estate. I knew they were particularly famous for their dessert wines and despite passing their Hunter Valley property a number of times; we’d never been inside.
As soon as I pushed the heavy wood door open, I detected a faint but very familiar smell – cheese. And not just any cheese, French cheese. Wine momentarily forgotten, we pressed our noses to the glass like children in a chocolate shop. Creamy brie Le Dauphin had Max’s name written all over it, whilst I found the Brebirousse, a sheep’s milk cheese with a reddish rind, hard to resist. The semi-hard Chaubier fascinated us, and so we selected a few to accompany our wine tasting and reluctantly headed to the wine counter.
I sampled six of the De Bortoli wines and was particularly intrigued by their take on a sparkling rosé, and though their acclaimed dessert wine worked perfectly with the Tarwin blue cheese (an Australian blue), I wasn’t 100% convinced, and we had several more wineries to come so I didn’t want to rush into anything.
Then it was time for the toughest decision of all – which cheeses should we take for our picnic? After much agonising we had settled upon 100g of the Taleggio and Chaubier, and 50g of the Tarwin blue (for me), when Max’s well-trained eye spotted some raclette cheese that was yet to even make it to the counter. Many will recognise it as the key ingredient of the dish of the same name, where it is melted and served over potatoes, but it is surprisingly tasty when raw. 100g of that was added to our bounty and we were all set for the picnic of a lifetime. And the lovely lady who had witnessed our cheese enthusiasm offered me one last taste for the road – a deliciously pungent French roquefort.