• Campaign for British Cheeses

    13 May 2019

    Campaign for British Cheese at Events

    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.”

    Gimblett is planning to donate his time to help event organisers, event caterers and event venues select great British cheeses for their lists. “I often see bland, mass-produced cheese, both imported and British, served at high-level dinners following our tasting events, the equivalent of serving their guests buy-one-get-one-free bulk wine. A proportion of our clients’ guests will recognise this, creating a bad impression. This is avoidable, as we have so many fabulous cheesemakers who find it hard to sell their cheese as their voices are not being heard and their labels never seen. I will be happy to give my time for free to speak to any event organiser, venue or caterer wanting guidance on what cheeses to buy and where best to buy them.” Gimblett can be contacted via his social media channels (below) or by email to francis@tasteofthevine.co.uk

    The Campaign will be launched at Vintners’ Hall on 30 May at a showcase event for Taste of the Vine’s new mobile Cheesemaking Challenge. The event is supported by Searcys, the first ever event caterers in the UK, founded in 1847 by John Searcy. Searcys have carved out a name as brave market-leaders, launching forward-thinking concepts including the original in-station Champagne bar at St Pancras, as well as cafés and restaurants in two World Heritage Sites. Searcys have a commitment to sustainability that has been echoed across all the food and drinks menus, with a company pledge to buy the best ingredients available, including the finest British cheeses. At St Pancras Brasserie and Champagne Bar, Searcys now serve an all-British cheese board, alongside a seasonal menu with up to 90% British produce. On 30 May, it has been announced that Searcys will be awarded the Campaign for British Cheese first award as a ‘Champion of British Cheese.’

    Matt Thomas, Searcys’ Managing Director says “We are proud to add the cheesemaking challenge to our event experiences, and for being recognised as a champion of British Cheese. This is a unique opportunity to make a positive contribution to the outstanding produce of local, British cheese, whilst sharing our commitment to provenance and sustainability at our events.”

    More details of the Campaign can be found at: www.tasteofthevine.co.uk/campaign

    Profiles of British cheesemakers visited on the #100cheesemakers100days tour can be found on Instagram and Twitter @francisgimblett.

    About Francis Gimblett, Taste of the Vine and Gimblett Cheese

    Francis and Pam Gimblett established Taste of the Vine in 1997 and the Gimblett Cheese Company in 2015.
    Through Taste of the Vine, they and their team bring a huge knowledge of food and drink into company boardrooms, speciality venues, conference locations, hotels and restaurants, with an entertaining format that is a blend of information, interaction and humour.

    Gimblett Cheese (www.gimblettcheese.co.uk) produces ‘Floyd’, a soft, washed-rind cheese, made in a purpose-built micro-dairy in the heart of the Surrey Hills. The cheese is in limited supply and goes to a small number of local retailers and Taste of the Vine’s corporate events.

    When not entertaining audiences, Francis can be found writing books and is also a frequent contributor of articles to event and wine trade publications.

    See www.tasteofthevine.co.uk for more information.