Cheese History



A Dream Realised

"My father and I had an excellent book on cheese production, however it was all in French which neither of us understood! We tried many recipes and methods with very mixed results. Our greatest achievement in those first months was that we managed to tick off every cheese fault that the book specified. These included a hideous looking contamination called ‘hair of the cat’, which resulted in long grey hairs growing out of our cheeses.” - Charles Back

Cyril and his wife Beryl had been on a trip to France and fell in love with the richly flavoured goats’ milk cheeses produced on a number of the wine farms that they visited. Upon returning to Paarl, they began investigating the possibility of starting South Africa’s first goats’ milk cheesery. After much investigation and a few fortunate coincidences, the first Saanen goats arrived at the farm in 1980. Cyril was farming with pigs at the time, and his understanding of livestock was not in question. However the skill of producing delicious goats' cheese was not one that was easily learned.

Fairview enlisted the assistance of Michel Agostinelli, a passionate Italian who had settled in South Africa after arriving as a POW during World War Two. Together with Charles (to whom Cyril had kindly passed the responsibility of the cheesery), Agostinelli began to develop the cheesery and the processes and disciplines involved. Cyril was soon satisfied that the quality of the Fairview cheeses was good enough to serve and they were offered along with wine tastings in the tasting room. The arrival of a large group of French engineers in Cape Town to work on a new power plant, added impetus to the cheesery as they quickly became fans and returned regularly during their stay. Goats’ milk cheese was a tough sell in South Africa in the 1980s as it was not a product that consumers were familiar with at all. But as time passed, both the size of the herd and the range of cheeses grew, with expansion to the cheesery taking place.

In 1995 the Vineyard Cheesery took a significant step forward thanks to two key events. Louis Lourens joined Fairview as head cheesemaker and Jersey cows’ milk cheese production was introduced.