Much like the excitement among movie buffs preceding the Oscars, the World Cheese Awards is a highly anticipated event among cheese connoisseurs and cheese lovers alike. This year it took place on October 18th in Bergamo, Italy, as part of the FORME cheese festival. There cheese from around the world, and especially those made by smaller artisan cheesemakers, were celebrated and judged. Indeed… more than 3,800 cheeses from 42 countries were entered!
All entries were judged in a single day by carefully assembled teams of experts who worked in groups of three, first selecting those they felt were award-worthy. Each group then nominated one exceptional cheese at their table. Eventually a sixteen-person ‘super jury’ of internationally recognized experts each chose a cheese to champion in the final round of judging. The final Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Super Gold were then debated in front of a live consumer and trade audience. And the top winners were…
#1. Rogue River Blue – USA
#2. Parmigiano Reggiano Latteria Sociale Santo Stefano – Italy
#3. Torta del Casar DOP Virgen del Prado – Spain
#4. Pitchfork Cheddar – UK
France was notably missing, and the blow was felt instantly. Although it is not the first time that non-French cheeses have won top prizes, the results were “sacrilige”according to Ouest-France (one of the country’s largest circulating newspapers). Epoisses was the best showing at #8 , but even that standing was a tie position with Switzerland.
With the cheesemaking playing field broadening, and with the delicate hit-and-miss peak and decline of timing, it is all good. French cheeses can take credit for being iconic in their own right, and the model from which so many other beautiful international cheeses have evolved.
And as they say…all is fair in love and cheese.