Visit to Juliansplatte Alpine Dairy, Allgaü, Austria.
The end of this week sees the start of the Slow Food Cheese Festival in Bra, Italy. Held every two years it is a spectacular event staged in the streets of this ancient town. Small scale cheesemakers and affineurs from all over the world converge to sell cheese, talk cheese, consume cheese and generally have a good time.
As if attending this event, wasn't enough of a privilege, the trip to Europe also affords many overseas visitors such as me, the opportunity to visit cheesemakers and producers in situ. This year, I have been spending time with my friend and colleague Norbert Sieghart of Kaeskuche. Norbert is a wholesaler and exporter of cheeses from Bavaria and the Allgaü region, a mountainous and spectacularly beautiful area reaching across from southern Germany into western Austria.
I will be writing much more in the following days and weeks about the cheeses and producers from this relatively unknown cheesemaking region. However, as a taster, here are some photos taken at the dairy on one of the Alps (mountains) known as Juliansplatte.
The dairy is located near the peak of the Alp at 1200m (3,600 ft) and accessible only via an extremely steep, windy track. The owners of the dairy travel up to the hut in June, together with their herd of Brown Swiss cows and a few belonging to their neighbor. They stay there for the duration of the summer, returning to their main farm and home on the lower slopes in late September.
During this time, the cows are milked by hand and the milk converted into one wheel of Allgaü Bergkäse each day. In addition, a very small number of delicious, soft, washed rind cheeses called Bachtensteiner are produced together with a few small "house" cheeses.
Here are some photos of the dairy and a slice of heaven on earth (and including a rock star shot of Scooby the dog who had just chewed my sunglasses into oblivion..!).