MARTIN Gott and Nicola Robinson, the Cumbrian cheese makers behind acclaimed artisan farmhouse cheese St. James, have just launched a brand-new cheese, a semi-soft in the round vine ash goats milk cheese.

The cheese is called Lady Grey, named after a member of the Cavendish family, who had a favourite viewing spot with an accompanying seat overlooking the Holker estate and nearby Morecambe Bay on a grassy bank high above Holker Farm.

This distinctive grey rind cheese uses vine ash to achieve its unique colouring, which is more unusual in cheeses produced in the British Isles, though the practice has been used for centuries in Europe. Particularly in the Loire Valley, France, which is noted for its fine goats’ cheeses, indeed arguably the most famous of them all is Valençay, which is instantly identifiable by its striking ash-coated grey rind.

Since the beginning of cheese making, the preservation of a cheese has always been of significant importance, especially as its nutrient rich surface has always been attractive to microbes and mold spores.

Thankfully, farmers in the Loire hit on the idea of coating their cheeses in ash from their abundant supply of vine stumps, which they burnt at the end of each season and ground into a fine powder, before individually hand coating the surface of each cheese. Handily they also realised it enhanced the flavour and texture of the cheese as well as helping dry it out a little and slow down the maturation process, ultimately helping to keep each cheese fresher for far longer.

Lady Grey follows in this ancient tradition, the snowy white paste has flavours that are grassy, bright and refreshing, which nicely balances the slightly peppery flavour of the grey rind. As the cheese breaks down with age, more delicate, floral tones become more evident, with a subtle and well-balanced sweetness too.

Martin said commented: ‘’We bought a herd of goats during lockdown when the Innes family from Staffordshire decided to retire from cheese making. I’m pleased to say that they’ve settled in properly now. Lady Grey is the second of a number of seasonal goats’ cheeses we will be making as the year progresses. We farm the goats in the same way as our Lacaune sheep, grazing them on the same pastures that we’ve carefully cultivated over a number of years. Alongside that we also utilise the very same low intensive farming practices, which delivers better quality milk for cheese making and places the animal under less stress ensuring that they have a happy and healthy life.’’