When I was asked if I would write a Taste of Nelson column rather than just writing about wine I thought it would be an interesting new challenge and I would be able to find a few things to write about but what had surprised me is how many local products we use at home on a regular basis and what amazing people we have in our community who are crafting beautiful products.
Matteo Bordini and his partner Sylvia are an Italian couple who moved from their Rome home to Nelson and set up a cheesemaking business with business partner Rafello Sirri. Sirri helped set up the cheesemaking operation before moving on to open an Italian restaurant in Morrison Square just before production started.
Matteo and Sylvia ran Milk Drop during its first year of operation, hand crafting fresh mozzarella, ricotta, scamorza and a hard cheese and have recently employed an Italian Master Cheesemaker, Ermanno, from North of Italy who has been making cheese for about 30 years.
How did an Italian couple end up in Nelson making cheese? Matteo has a background in tourism and travel administration and still has a small shareholding in the tourism company in Italy “but with issues in Europe tourism operators are defaulting so life became quite difficult in that industry” says Matteo.
He and Syliva wanted to change their lives, do something more connected with nature, less virtual, something real and because “I have always been a cheese lover and learned to make cheese a couple of years before we came here”.
They worked for a small artisan cheese maker in the Italian country side close to Rome, they chose this cheesemaker so they could learn how to make cheese using very old traditional methods. “From a social point of view it was beautiful way to live, we learned how to make different cheeses, we spent time with a shepherd who made amazing sheep milk cheeses and had many different experiences making cheese from buffalo milk, sheep milk, cows milk and even goat milk.”
He says “we met wonderful people, learned so much from them and learned a skill that means we can have a real life with lots of experiences not just a job.”
I asked Matteo why Nelson? He said they had visited New Zealand and Australia and decided they wanted to move to this part of the world and that New Zealand was the best fit for them and what they wanted to do. “We found New Zealand had a more human side than Australia and after travelling around New Zealand we thought Nelson the most beautiful place and was where we wanted to create our new home. We knew we could bring old world cheesemaking techniques to a new country and you have beautiful products here we can use. It would have been easier to establish the business in Wellington or Christchurch because of the population but Nelson is more beautiful and has a great quality of life.”
Before they made the final move to Nelson they had the opportunity to buy cheese making equipment from a factory that was closing down in Sicily, they bought everything and moved it to Nelson.
Matteo and Sylivia have a new business partner who is really pushing company growth and the new master cheesemaker already has plans for new types of cheeses which means Nelsonians will get to enjoy another wonderful style of cheese in a couple of months, Gorgonzola.
Using fresh milk from Oaklands Matteo and Syliva made fresh mozzarella and their other cheeses using original ferments (bacteria) they import from Italy “to make a top product we can be really proud of”. While Ermanno will be making changes they will still have a big focus on mozzarella. The gorgonzola for example will be made in two styles, hard blue cheese and spreadable blue cheese.
They are also planning on making different spreadable cheeses and will have them at the Saturday market where people can taste them and give Matteo and his cheesemaker some feedback. They want to make cheeses people want so trialling them at the market gives them an incomparable source of feedback, people try them and come back and tell them what they like and don’t like.
Another cheese they are going to make for summer are little balls that are between hard and soft, prefect for kebab sticks on the barbecue because they are soft and uncious without melting. Matteo says “our new cheesemaker has many secrets about the mysteries of cheesemaking he is bringing to Nelson and New Zealand so it is really exciting for us.”
Milk Drop Cheese’s factory is in Hastings Street but you will find them at the Saturday market where they love to give away tastings and want you to tell them what you think of their wonderful cheeses.