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Fanaost from Norway crowned World Champion Cheese 2018 in Bergen

Amy Brice

Photo credit: Tim Johnston Photography.

Photo credit: Tim Johnston Photography.

Fanaost, an aged gouda made by Norwegian cheesemaker, Ostegården, has been named World Champion Cheese at the 31st edition of the World Cheese Awards in Bergen, Norway. Produced from a herd of just 12 cows on a farm less than 20km from Bergen, Fanaost rose to the top among a record breaking 3,472 entries judged in a single day at the city’s iconic Grieg Hall.

This truly artisan cheese stood out at every stage of the blind tasting process on Friday 2 November, as the competition visited Norway for the first time to form part of the brand new food festival, Matnasjonen Norge, in partnership with HANEN. Beating finalists from countries including Italy, France, Israel and South Africa in the final 16, cheesemaker Jørn Hafslund was in attendance to claim his trophy and receive a rapturous reception from the home crowd.

Jørn Hafslund from Ostegården commented:

“I have no words. Our herd of 12 cows produces nice milk to make this Dutch-inspired Fanaost cheese, which we have been making for 12 years. Cheese makers here look out for each other and work together, so this is for Norway!”

Having taken this year’s top prize at the largest cheese-only competition on the planet, Ostegården now joins a select group of cheesemakers to have earned this prestigious accolade over the past three decades. Jason Hinds from Neal's Yard Dairy in the UK, who also received an Exceptional Contribution to Cheese award at this year’s World Cheese Awards, championed the cheese during the final round of judging, saying:

“This was a refreshing thing to taste with none of that confected sweetness that can be sometimes be prevalent in this style of cheese. I was looking for terroir and this cheese, which turned out to be from Norway, really delivers a sense of place with a great texture and wonderful marriage of sweet and savoury notes.”

The rest of the International Super Jury, representing nations including Brazil, Japan, Russia, Norway and Spain, concurred, awarding Fanaost the highest score of the final judging stage.

Fanaost was awarded 71 points out of a possible 80 by the Super Jury of 16 judges, ahead of two cheeses in joint-second place with 65 points; Agour Pur Brebis AOP Ossau Iraty from France, made by Fromagerie Agour and entered by QST International Limited; and Helfeit, Brun Geitost – Tinntradisjon, a traditional brown goat’s cheese from Norway, made by Stordalen Gardsbruk.

John Farrand, managing director of the Guild of Fine Food, organisers of the World Cheese Awards, commented:

“The World Cheese Awards was set up to champion artisan cheesemakers, so it feels very fitting that this year’s winner should be a small family farm making cheese just a few miles south from here. Our hosts, including HANEN, Norway’s Minister of Agriculture and Food, Bård Hoksrud, and the Bergen city government, have understood the power of this global cheese gathering from the outset and besides the honour of having over 200 of the world’s top cheese people to hang out with for a few days, we know that the competition will leave a lasting legacy for food and drink in this part of the world. With just a dozen cows, I think it’s safe to say that Ostegården is our smallest ever champion and I hope as many people as possible get to taste this rare and special cheese. More importantly though, this result has shone a spotlight on just how good artisan cheese can be, so I’d encourage the world to revisit the cheese counter and take a closer look at what’s being produced on their doorsteps.”

Records were broken across the board this year, as more nations than ever before entered cheeses into the world’s biggest cheese-only event. Representing 41 different countries, entries made their way by boat, truck, train and plane via 12 consolidation points around the world, from places including Brazil, Kenya, New Zealand, Russia, South Africa and the USA. 235 judges from 30 countries then tasted, nosed and graded cheeses from six continents, giving Bronze, Silver, Gold and Super Gold awards to worthy entries.

As 3,472 eventually became 16, the crowds then watched on as the International Super Jury debated the world’s top cheese. Made up of the finest palates from the international cheese community, this year’s panel featured cheese makers, cheesemongers, buyers, chefs, retailers and writers. Judges including José Pizarro, critically acclaimed Spanish chef, Cathy Strange, global executive coordinator for Whole Foods Market in the USA, Claus Meyer, co-founder of Noma in Denmark, and Carlos Yescas, author and cheesemonger from Mexico, all put forward their chosen cheeses live on World Cheese TV, before crowning this year’s World Champion Cheese.

For more information about the World Cheese Awards, visit www.gff.co.uk/wca.