Revolutionizing Palates: India’s Artisanal Cheese Landscape

Devati Mallick reports on the Indian cheese brands rolling out a fascinating selection of homegrown artisanal cheeses for your everyday epicurean delight

A presentation box of Begum Victoria cheese produced at Victoria Layout in Bengaluru.

For centuries, wine and cheese have flourished as the perfect partners. Their relationship thrives on the yin-yang principle — cheese is rich and creamy, wine is refreshing. Both flavours combine as opposites to create one exquisite sensation on your palate. In India, cheese is finally coming into its own. It is time to move past the store-bought processed blocks of cheese, or the expensive ones available only in high-end retail shops. It’s time to slowly unwrap the wonders of Bel Paese, Havarti, smoked Scamorza, herb-infused Camembert, exquisite little balls of Bocconcini, Halloumi and more — all handcrafted in India!

Homegrown brands are combining western cheesemaking techniques with local flavours and establishing new standards for the Indian artisanal cheese revolution. Their aim is to offer gourmet quality, and to make these classic, yet ‘reinvented’, cheeses easily accessible to everyone, not just turophiles of the niche market (did you know that turophile is what a cheese connoisseur is called?). Fromagers are coming up with some of the most fascinating cheeses that deserve all your attention right now. Scroll through some of these artisanal brands below to discover more.

Homegrown brands are combining western cheesemaking techniques with local flavours and establishing new standards

Black truffle Brie from The Spotted Cow Fromagerie in Bombay

Flanders Dairy, Delhi
The Flanders story began in the 1980s with a passionate young entrepreneur, Sunil Bhu, who studied cheesemaking on a farm in Flanders, Belgium. Having trained thereafter under several renowned cheesemakers, he opened Flanders Dairy on the outskirts of Delhi, handcrafting some of the finest European cheeses right here in the capital. It is as classic as it gets, from sourcing fresh cow’s milk from their dairy farms to combining state-of-the-art equipment that has been sourced from Europe. Residents of Delhi, rejoice, as you can find a variety of their gourmet offerings at their exclusive cheese shop at Mehar Chand Market, called The Cheese Ball. Don’t miss out on their luscious Mascarpone, rich Gouda or the delicious smoked Scamorza!

Begum Victoria Cheese, Bengaluru
Started by Chef Manu Chandra, Shruti Golccha and Pooja Reddy, the name tips a hat to Victoria Layout, the locality where the cheese is produced. Look out for some of their seasonal, festive special cheeses, like the truffle brie, dill and pecan cheese, or soft cheese topped with fried curry leaves and candied mustard seeds. Some classics include the Spanish Manchego, Danish Havarti, or the Italian Fontina and Bel Paese. They also make an in-house range of condiments like smoked honey, black truffle butter, rosemary crackers and assorted fruit spreads.

The Spotted Cow Fromagerie, Bombay
Artisanal. Handmade. Local. Words that best describe this Bombay-based fromagerie! Started by brothers Prateeksh and Agnay Mehra in 2014, The Spotted Cow offers a fascinating range of cheeses to choose from, not least their Indian rendition of Camembert and Brie, fondly called ‘Camembay’ and ‘Bombrie’, paying homage to the city of Bombay where they were first made. Try their unique dessert cheese, a sinful caramelized hazelnut log, perfect for satiating those late-night cravings!

Himalayan Parmesan from Darima Farms

Darima Farms, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand
Arvind Chawla and Saurabh Vinayak set up this artisanal cheese farm in 2018, located in Darima village, amidst the picturesque hills of Mukteshwar in Uttarakhand. The very sound of it makes one want to take off to the mountains and indulge in their fine cheeses with one or several glasses of wine. Rightly so, given their diverse range of mountain cheeses, from Himalayan Gouda, Gruyere, Cheddar and Tomme. Try their exclusive honeyrubbed Montasio, and Zarai, a nutty, semi-hard cheese infused with local oil and spices.

Attractive birthday platter from The Cheese Collective

The Cheese Collective, Bombay
The Cheese Collective from Bombay was founded in 2014 by cheesemaker Mansi Jasani with the idea of elevating Bombay’s cheese culture. In addition to producing top-notch cheese, they sell a variety of cheeses sourced from other Indian cheesemakers, and host classes on cheese making and tasting. Just open their Instagram page and you will be spoiled for choice looking at the aesthetically arranged cheese platters, a hit with their customers! Try the variety of flavoured, fresh mini-chevre party balls – coated in mixed herbs, honey, jalapeno, cumin, truffle and a range of other exotic herbs and spices.

Melchior Fromagerie, Bengaluru
Melchior has become a hot new favourite for cheese-lovers in Bangalore. Run by French cheesemaker Valentin Melchior and Aparajeeta Dhuria, they churn out an everchanging menu of gourmet cheeses. Curating customized cheese platters for every occasion is a Melchior speciality, and they partner with numerous producers for condiments, crackers and other exquisite little extras that make their platters so special. Look out for the locally inspired ‘Kempe- Gouda’ and ‘Tomme de Bengaluru’, and the Cambrie, Pudubec Blue, Burrata and Stracciatella. A new addition is the GOAT (the acronym stands for ‘Greatest Of All Time’), a spin on Chevre. They are smallbatch producers, so make sure you order your share of cheesy goodness before it flies off their shelves!

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A favourite in Bengaluru, Melchior Fromagerie churn
out an ever-changing menu of gourmet cheeses

Nari & Kage, Bengaluru
Apart from the delicious cheeses they make, fromagers and founders Kathrina and Benjamin of Nari & Kage curate exciting cheese tastings for enthusiasts, to spread their love for cheese. They are soon coming up with a cheese shop, a first in the city! The name of their brand comes from the popular folktale of Nari (fox in Kannada) and Kage (crow), who are brought together by the woman (also Nari in Hindi) so that they can live in harmony. Their desire to unite people with their love of cheese is reflected in this metaphor. Take a cue from this and try some of their specialities – the Mexican Queso Oaxaca, or fresh Chevre, Edam and Kempe Knolle, a lemony cheese infused with garlic, pink salt, and rolled in sundried tomato and paprika. Tempting enough?

Käse, Chennai
Tamil Nadu has been dishing out some quality cheese brands with exciting offerings as well. Two of them that stand out are Käse from Chennai and Kodai Cheese from Kodaikanal.

In 2016, Anuradha Krishnamoorthy and Namrata Sundaresan experimented with creating ‘Quark’, a fresh, crumbly German cheese. Seeing how well it was received, they chose to call their company ‘Käse’, German for cheese. Today, they make over 40 varieties of fresh, aged and spreadable cheeses. They also bring in the local influence, like a Cheddar infused with mor milagai (buttermilk-fermented chillies) and an ‘Ode to Chennai’, a Cheddar crusted with milagai podi (South Indian gunpowder). In 2021, Käse cheese collaborated with Fratelli Vineyards for a range of vineyardinspired Fratelli cheeses. Try the Cheddar wrapped in Sangiovese leaves or the Barrel Aged Feta to bask in the whole wine and cheese aura.

An appetising platter of fresh cheeses from Nari & Kage in Bengaluru

Kodai Cheese, Kodaikanal Kodai dairy farms started in the 1970s when GS Mani and his family took over a small unit in Kodaikanal to set up their cheese business. Today, Kodai cheese is an iconic name in the country and a fully established industry currently run by third generation cheesemakers. Their French-inspired cheeses are made with milk from their own dairy farms. They are widely available in all cities in a variety of delicious classics like Brie, Edam, Gouda, Emmental, Gruyere, Kodai Blue and a range of smoked and flavoured cheeses that are among their bestsellers!

Himalayan Cheese, Kashmir

Cheddar infused with buttermilk-fermented chillies from Käse in Chennai

Fine cheese made from Himalayan milk in the valley of Kashmir, by Dutch cheesemaker Chris Zandee is truly a confluence of cultures. Himalayan Cheese is a little enterprise inspired by Chris’s Dutch roots and cheesemaking traditions, with local expertise in the valley. Aside from the classic cheese styles available on their menu, try the Kalari, traditional cheese similar to Mozzarella, made by the Gujjar shepherds in the mountains of Kashmir. It is popularly known as ‘milk chapati’, and is relished by frying, lightly seasoning and then savouring with a side of coriander or tamarind chutney.

After reading about the wide variety of Indian cheeses available in the market, it will be easier to create impressive cheese boards for your guests and wine tasting parties. Here are some must-know tips to prepare you for this gourmet adventure.

• Where possible, match the intensity in both wine and cheese. Refreshing and fruity whites and rosés pair well with soft and creamy cheeses. Save the bold, flavourful reds for equally intense, aged cheeses. For instance, try a crisp Sauvignon Blanc paired with Chèvre, or a Syrah paired with aged Tomme or Gouda.

• Few cheeses spark the same level of passion in a turophile than the mere mention of blue cheese. If you enjoy this category of pungent, funky smelling cheese, sweet wines are your best friends. The wine’s sweetness helps funky cheeses taste creamier by counteracting their pungency. Port wine and Stilton or Gorgonzola are classic pairings.

• Sparkling wines have a delicious palate cleansing effect when paired with soft, fresh cheeses like Brie and Camembert that coat your mouth with their creaminess. Few things speak of life’s simple pleasures as much as exotic bubbles and cheesy goodness. What’s not to love?

Fried Kalari cheese from Kashmir similar to Mozzarella made by Gujjar shepherds

• Experiment and, experiment some more. It is always a good idea to first taste the wine and the cheese separately, and then together. Engage all your senses and rely on your taste buds to tell you if the match is successful or not. You’ve got to get this! The beauty of pairing wine and cheese is that there are several styles of wine and several types of cheese offering you a blank canvas on which to create your own unique pairings. Say Cheers, as you prepare for your next wine and cheese get-together with the array of exciting artisanal cheeses made in India. Or should we say, Cheese!