It was written in the stars: Matariki was always going to be a champion cheese. Karen Trafford, husband Daryl and their family began producing their gourmet cheeses little more than five years ago. They’d been large-scale dairy farmers and wanted to wind back to a smaller, more specialised work and lifestyle. So they built a cheese factory on their farm at Tapawera, south of Nelson, bordering Kahurangi National Park.
Nestled under Mt Owen, more than 300m above sea level, the farm’s milk is pumped from the cowshed into the factory next door. There, the family produce their Wangapeka range of artisan cheeses, milk and cream, yoghurt and even cheese wedding cakes. They tasted success at several national cheese awards. As 2016 dawned, a new vintage was on the horizon.
When it came time to name the soft, silky-textured, spice-wrapped cheese, everything fell into place. Matariki, the Māori New Year, marks the appearance of the Pleiades constellation in the heavens above New Zealand. Karen explains, “We decided to name the cheese Matariki as it was developed newly this year, the neighbouring valley to our farm is named Matariki – all our cheeses are named after local areas – and our new grandson was due on June 18, which was the actual Māori New Year in 2016. So it all fitted.”
It fitted so well Matariki won the gold medal as the best new cheese, then the gold medal as the overall champion of gold medal-winners at this year’s New Zealand Cheese Awards. Sabato cheesemonger Calum Hodgson describes Matariki as “impressive New Zealand cheese alchemy”.
4 perfect pairings
Karen Trafford says, “We wanted to have a chest that was all about summer, flavour, fun and Kiwi good times”. Here are four suggested pairings.
Served on pork crackling
“It’s both decadent and delicious. I’d suggest readers indulge their gluttony,” says Karen.
With Epic Armageddon IPA
The spiced “jacket” around the cheese brings out rose petal and Turkish delight notes in the beer.
With a full-bodied pinot noir
From a Nelson vineyard, of course: think Neudorf, Left Field or Rimu Grove
Accompanying specially breads and salads
It pairs with most fruits and can be used as a dessert cheese, too.