Tiny family farm wins World Cheese Award

AN aged Gouda cheese, Fanaost, made by the tiny Norwegian cheesemaker, Ostegården, was named World Champion Cheese at the 31st World Cheese Awards in Bergen, Norway.

Produced from a herd of just 12 cows on a farm less than 20km from Bergen, this genuinely artisan cheese rose to the top among a record breaking 3,472 entries judged in a single day at the city’s Grieg Hall.

Fanaost was one of 16 finalists from countries including Italy, France, Israel and South Africa, and cheesemaker Jørn Hafslund was there to receive his trophy – and a rapturous reception from the home crowd. He said: “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!”

Jason Hinds from Neal’s Yard Dairy, who received an Exceptional Contribution to Cheese award at the event, championed Fanaost during the final round of judging: “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.”

Runners up were Agour Pur Brebis AOP Ossau Iraty from France, made by Fromagerie Agour and Helfeit, Brun Geitost – Tinntradisjon, a traditional brown goat’s cheese from Norway, made by Stordalen Gardsbruk.

John Farrand, managing director of the Dorset-based Guild of Fine Food, organisers of the World Cheese Awards, said: “The World Cheese Awards were 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. 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.”

West Country artisan cheeses which won awards included Dorset Blue Vinny, produced by the Davies family on their farm near Stalbridge, which won gold, and Wiltshire Loaf, produced by Ceri Cryer at Brinkworth Dairy in north Wiltshire.

Other awards from West Country cheese-makers include: Barbers’s Sweet Tone – Best Extra Mature Cheddar;  Godminster’s Oak Smoked Vintage Organic Cheddar – Best Smoked; Ford Farm’s Cage-Aged Goat – Super-Gold; Quicke’s Mature Cloth-bound Cheddar and Goat’s Milk Cloth-bound – both Gold; and Lyburn Cheesemakers’ Stoney Cross – Gold,

This year’s awards broke records with cheeses from 41 different countries – the highest figure ever – including Brazil, Kenya, New Zealand, Russia, South Africa and the USA, and 235 judges from 30 countries. As 3,472 eventually became 16,  the International Super Jury debated the result. The panel of cheese makers, cheesemongers, buyers, chefs, retailers and writers, included Spanish chef José Pizarro, Cathy Strange, global executive coordinator for Whole Foods Market in the USA, Claus Meyer, co-founder of Noma in Denmark, and Mexican author and cheesemonger Carlos Yescas.