Now in its 29th year, the World Cheese Awards held its first ever Champion of Champions event at the Kursaal Congress Centre in San Sebastián on Thursday 17 November, with this unprecedented honour going to Kraftkar, made by Norwegian producer Tingvollost. Featuring a tantalising line up of all previous winners, this unique spectacle was a celebration of the heritage and diversity of the largest cheese-only awards scheme on the planet, with the spoils going to Kraftkar, which was crowned World Champion Cheese 2016 the previous day.
Taking place on day two of the International Cheese Festival, which had already witnessed a record number of over 3,000 cheeses being judged at the World Cheese Awards less than 24 hours earlier, curd nerds from every corner of the globe gathered to watch a panel of renowned cheese experts, representing Australia, the Basque Country, France, Mexico, South Africa, Spain, the USA and the UK, taste, nose and assess this unparalleled field of world champions.
Ingulf Galaaen, fellow Norwegian cheesemaker from Røros, who accepted the Champion of Champions award on Tingvollost’s behalf, explained;
“It was a very special day yesterday and Gunnar has already returned to Norway to make more cheese! This is another wonderful moment and a fantastic achievement for cheesemakers in Norway.”
Heralded as “the best cheese ever made”, Kraftkar blew the international panel of judges away once more, with Ossau Iraty from Fromagerie Agour in France coming second and Le Gruyère AOP Premier Cru from Cremo SA von Mühlenen in Switzerland placed third.
John Farrand, managing director of the Guild of Fine Food, organisers of the World Cheese Awards, commented;
“What an incredible way to cap off another record-breaking year for the World Cheese Awards. We were certainly in the presence of greatness this morning, as nearly three decades’ worth of World Champion Cheeses took the stage in front of our audience of food professionals, cheese-makers, journalists, buyers and retailers. This was definitely a moment to remember. It has been an honour to share this occasion with the global cheese community that has once again assembled for the World Cheese Awards, in what has been an unforgettable year, as the competition formed part of the inaugural International Cheese Festival during San Sebastián’s tenure as European Capital of Culture.”
The World Cheese Awards drew entries from 31 different countries this year, from Australia to Italy and Mexico to Mozambique. Cheese of all shapes and sizes made their way by bicycle, boat, plane, train, truck and car to the Kursaal Congress Centre in San Sebastián, via 12 consolidation points in all corners of the globe. 266 cheese experts from 26 different nations followed them to the Basque Country to taste, nose and grade over 3,000 cheeses in a single day, giving Bronze, Silver, Gold and Super Gold awards to worthy entries.
The final judging panel, made up of top names from the world of cheese, featuring cheese makers, buyers, retailers and writers, including Suzy O'Regan from Woolworths Foods in South Africa, Cathy Strange from Whole Foods in the USA, Roland Barthélemy, President of Guilde des Fromagers in France, and Mary Quicke from Quicke's in the UK, then debated the top 16 cheeses in front of a trade and consumer audience, broadcast live on World Cheese TV, before crowning this year’s World Champion Cheese.
More information on the World Cheese Awards and the Guild of Fine Food can be found at www.gff.co.uk/awards/world-cheese-awards.