Spend a small amount of time with Grandvewe’s Diane Rae and you cannot help but be caught up by her vibrant energy and entertained with many cheese tales.
Spend even a small amount of time with Grandvewe’s Diane Rae and you cannot help but be caught up by her vibrant energy and entertained by her many cheese tales. A holiday in Tasmania changed Rae’s life. In 2001, she moved the family from Maleny in Queensland to Birch’s Bay in Tasmania, 40 minutes south of Hobart, to establish a vineyard. As a way to keep the weeds down between the rows of vines, she brought in dairy sheep, starting with a herd of East Friesland sheep. The vines are gone but the sheep remain. Rae initiated a breeding program, crossing the existing East Friesland herd with the Middle Eastern Awassi breed for a hardier sheep, the Grandvewe dairy sheep breed. Using cheesemaking skills gained from study through the University of Melbourne, Rae transformed the milk into the first wheels of Grandvewe cheese. Now, together with her daughter, co-cheesemaker Nicole Gilliver, and son, Marketing Manager Ryan Hartshorn, they make up Grandvewe Cheese, an organic farmhouse sheep milk dairy and cheesery. Over the years, Rae has employed ‘woofers’, volunteers under the Willing Workers on Organic Farms (WWOOF) scheme. This is a program, which began in England as a weekend ‘on-farm’ experience for city slickers keen to get their hands dirty, and has been operating in Australia since 1982. They find tasks that suit the woofer’s personality and interests, whether it be helping make or pack cheese, or working outside with the sheep. Rae tells the story of a French woofer working in the paddock when the restaurant became busy. She asked him to spend the day plating cheese. “I was amazed at the presentation of the cheeseboards being delivered to customers,” she says. “I congratulated him on his attention to detail. Turns out he was a three-star Michelin chef on holiday.” Rae answered some questions about Grandvewe, below. How does the Tasmanian climate work for sheep’s milk? It’s the Tasmanian terroir. We have the cleanest air and it’s a good climate for growing grass. Sheep like the cold climate but don’t like getting their feet wet, so for three months of the year during winter, they are housed in the ‘Sheep Hilton’ – five-star ovine accommodation where they get bed and breakfast. If it’s a fine day they will be allowed out to wander during the day. This is also where they go to have their lambs. When lambing, each mum and bub have their own stall for a month and given time to bond. At the end of the month, the bubs are weaned on to grass and grain and mums become working mothers. What is your favourite recipe using a Grandvewe product? I use the White Pearl as a stuffing for baked mushrooms. I also serve White Pearl instead of tartare sauce with salmon. What’s next for Grandvewe? In November we have been invited to be one of 27 Tasmanian artisan producers to be represented in a new development called Brooke St Pier. This is a three-storey glass atrium on a floating pier where all the ferries leave for places like MONA, Port Arthur etc, and is designed to give a taste of Tasmania. Does it ever feel too hard/challenging coming from a very different career? Often, especially at the beginning. Learning how to look after sheep and creating the systems required to make it, not only work, but commercially viable. Now there are so many opportunities and being a family business with limited capital, the challenge is deciding which direction to take the business. grandvewe.com.au