26 Sep Our History of Fairview Cheese
The story of Fairview cheeses starts three decades ago, when Cyril Back purchased his first Saanen dairy goats, setting Fairview on the path to becoming one of South Africa’s leading artisanal cheese producers.
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, as his son Charles recounts:
“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.”
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.
Louis’ knowledge, passion and dedication quickly took the production to new levels of quality and his professional approach began to show in the systems and styles of cheese produced. Traditional recipe cream cheeses, Brie, Camembert and blue mould cheeses were added to the range and Fairview’s products began to garner accolades and awards. Roydon Camembert, the flagship product in the range, was awarded the Gold Medal at the World Cheese Awards no less than 5 times in 7 years, a performance that did not go down well with the French no doubt!
The Fairview Vineyard Cheesery is based in Paarl in the Western Cape and produces a range of over 20 cows’ milk and goat’s milk artisanal cheeses that are sold in all major centres in South Africa. Fairview products are sold both in the catering market and major retailers.
Fairview offers a range of locally and internationally awarded artisanal cheeses including white mould, blue mould, feta and cream cheese styles. The cheesery sources the bulk of its cows’ milk from a leading Jersey milk dairy. The Saanen goats’ milk used for production is supplied by the resident herd of over 1000 goats. The factory is fully audited and complies with international hygiene and safety regulations. The Fairview range of cheeses is certified Halaal and Kosher.
The Fairview Vineyard Cheesery’s team is lead by cheese maker Louis Lourens, who has been with the company since 1990. His extensive experience and insight into the industry is vital in maintaining Fairview’s position as an industry leader and innovator. Lourens is assisted by cheese maker Bruce Rowbotham, who joined the company in 2005. In addition, Fairview has assembled a team of experienced staff and food technologists who assist in all aspects of new product development and quality control. Fairview’s sales and administration department deals with South Africa’s leading retailers, ensuring that the company’s mark of quality extends from its products through to its client and customer service.
The production facility has been built and expanded so as to facilitate the efficient production of a range of products utilising differing cultures and moulds, while maintaining the hygiene and control standards required of a world class facility. Access is strictly controlled and the cheesery is not open to the public. The production facility processes over 16 000 litres of Jersey cows’ milk and 2 000 litres of Saanen goats’ milk daily, with production running seven days a week. This translates into a production of approximately 900 tons of cheese per annum. The Fairview Vineyard Cheesery is fully HACCP accredited, with audits taking place annually. The factory also has Kosher and Halaal certification.
In 2010 Fairview commissioned Earth Patrol to design and implement an emission reductions project to offset the Fairview Cheese Factory’s 2010 organisational footprint. Carbon Neutral status has been awarded to the Fairview Cheese Factory by the Carbon Protocol of South Africa. This has positioned Fairview as a leader in the low carbon economy by becoming the first Carbon Neutral Cheesery on the African continent.