Food and drink expert Francis Gimblett goes to extreme lengths to gather unique content for his corporate tasting events business, Taste of the Vine.
In the first quarter of 2019 he completed a quest to visit the top 100 British cheesemakers in 100 days, `wild camping’ in a tent on his Land Rover with just his mobile phone for company.
He endured sub-zero temperatures, battled through winter winds and was even rescued by the army from flash floods as he traversed the country from the slopes of the South Downs to the rugged terrain of the Scottish Highlands.
During his “#100cheesemakers100days” road trip, Francis met with artisan producers and discovered the stories behind their cheeses.
As well as gathering content for his events, the trip was research for Gimblett’s Guide to British Cheeses (a book to be published in Autumn 2019). “The trip highlighted some worrying statistics about the British cheese industry,” says Gimblett. “We have only 300 cheesemakers in Britain, whereas France has at least 4,500; and we rely on imported artisan cheese, particularly for our events.”
Gimblett feels that time is running out to save and grow the British artisan cheese industry. “In 1997 we had 27,000 dairies producing milk in the UK. In 2017 we had under 10,000; that’s a loss of over two dairies a day, and it’s continuing to decline. Yet we’re producing more milk. The problem is that, but the surviving dairies are getting larger, cows are being milked harder, increasingly indoors, and producing milk that is difficult to make good cheese from.”
Gimblett and his wife started a cheese micro-dairy, Gimblett Cheese, at their home in Haslemere, Surrey, in 2015. “It was hard to find a farm that would sell us milk that we could turn into high quality cheese. Most milk we trialled produced bland cheese that we couldn’t be proud of. We were lucky to find a farmer with a small herd of Jersey cows, but because it’s the small dairies producing high quality milk that are disappearing, others wanting to develop new cheeses in the future will find it increasingly hard. There are still small dairies out there and if they can be paired with new cheesemakers who will pay a premium for their milk, they can stay in business. It’s better for our cows, our economy and our heritage.”
“I have long been surprised by our reliance on imported artisan cheeses for our events cheeseboards when there are so many great British cheeses out there that nobody has heard of. That’s why I’m starting the Campaign for British Cheese in the events industry.”
The Campaign will be launched at Vintners’ Hall on 30th May at a showcase event for Taste of the Vine’s new mobile Cheesemaking Challenge. The event will be run in partnership with Searcys caterers, who will be awarded the Campaign for British Cheese’s first award as a ‘Champion of British Cheese.’
More details of the Campaign can be found at: