Giving the big boys in dairying a run for their money – meet David and Julie Hinchliffe, producers of award-winning cheese at the boutique Robe Dairy.
Readers who follow my Instagram account will probably have noticed that I’ve been getting around a bit over the last few months. I’m just back from my third international trip since the end of January and, in between those trips, have been getting out into some of the South Australian food producing regions, meeting local food heroes and invariably coming away totally inspired by their passion, commitment and energy. Julie and David Hinchliffe of Robe Dairy certainly qualify as food champions – their commitment to their exceptional dairy products is epic.
Establishing a successful dairy business is no mean feat, especially at such at a tricky time for the industry, when many in this country are walking away from dairying. Welcoming the challenge, this energetic couple took a big plunge and under the banner of Robe Dairy have established their own award-winning boutique paddock-to-plate (or cup, as the case may be) range of dairy products.
Both David and Julie come from a science background, so an interest in the chemistry behind cheese production is no surprise, but their dedication to achieving a premium product goes well beyond that. At their property on the outskirts of Robe, in the south-east of South Australia, they keep a herd of 20 dairy cattle which they milk themselves in their small, purpose-built dairy. The milk is then processed in their own on-site (also purpose-built) facilities.
They began their range by bottling and selling milk in 2014, confident of it’s purity and flavour because of their total control over it’s provenance and quality. Within months they had included new products. First yoghurt, then labneh – a soft, fresh cheese. It was the latter that saw them take out two gold medals and a major trophy in the 2015 and 2016 Australian Dairy Product Competition, a massive win for such a tiny, new company in an arena traditionally dominated by large national companies.
Since then they have developed the sophisticated, complexly flavoured, rich and creamy St Clair brie which, because it is unstabilised, closely resembles the traditional French farmhouse bries which inspired it.
The depth of flavour on this delicious cheese is remarkable for a product which is not made from raw milk and is due to their premium milk, careful affinage techniques and the strict timing of release, ensuring it is at it’s very best when it gets to the customers.
They continue to expand the range, but within limits that they can control in order to maintain their exceptional quality. The latest product to hit their shelves is a carefully developed, full-bodied camembert, described by Julie as “a gooey beast of a thing” and which sold out immediately.
Overcoming the tyranny of distance, Julie and David have now opened an online store, offering small, personally selected, limited edition mixed cheese selections on set dispatch dates. Cheese lovers will also find some of their products in a range of Adelaide and Limestone Coast stores, including Frewville Foodland and The Smelly Cheese Shop.