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, 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.
A record number of over 3,000 cheeses were judged at the World Cheese Awards that also witnessed curd nerds from every corner of the globe gathering 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.
The International Cheese Festival took place at the Kursaal Congress Centre in San Sebastián from 16-18 November 2016.
World Cheese Awards 2016 – the background
- The World Cheese Awards is organised by the Guild of Fine Food
- 2016 is the 29th year of the competition
- The planet’s biggest ‘cheese-only’ competition – no yoghurt, cream, butter or other dairy
- 3,021 cheeses from 31 different countries entered – including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, England, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Mozambique, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Scotland, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the USA and Wales
- 266 judges from around the world travelled from 26 different countries to ‘nose’ and taste the cheese
- Judging broadcasted live on World Cheese TV
- A Super Jury of 16 judges decided the final winning World Champion Cheese
How the judging works
Judges work in teams of four, identifying any cheeses worthy of a bronze, silver, gold – or no award. They are looking at the rind and the body of the cheese, its colour, texture, consistency and, above all, its taste.
Each of the 66 teams then nominates one exceptional cheese as the Super Gold from their table. These 66 cheeses are the best in the world and are judged a second time by the Super Jury of 16 internationally recognised experts, who will each select a cheese to champion in the final round of judging.
The Super Jury then debates the final 16 in front of a live consumer and trade audience, before choosing the World Champion Cheese live on World Cheese TV, with cheese lovers across the globe tuning in for the drama.
International Cheese Festival
The International Cheese Festival 2016 is the most important gastronomic celebration in Donostia San Sebastián during its tenure as European Capital of Culture, and the World Cheese Awards 2016 was organised within the framework of this festival. The main goal of the festival is to promote and strengthen productive vocations linked to artisan cheese production, jointly boosting culture, gastronomy and tourism in the Basque Country.
The International Cheese Festival is bringing artisan-produced cheeses to a global audience of professionals, along with the highest quality gastronomic and cultural experiences, from tastings and workshops to conferences and other activities, promoting coexistence and supporting the hard work of artisan producers. Spaces are also available to do business among different producers and buyers.
Participants in the festival include PDO cheese producers from Spain and internationally renowned chefs, as well as artisans, universities and companies in the cheese and gastronomic industry. The festival is open to all, allowing the public to participate in this unprecedented celebration of cheese.
World Champion Cheese roll of honour
- 2016 Kraftkar, Tingvollost, Norway
- 2015 Le Gruyère AOP Premier Cru, Cremo SA – von Mühlenen, Switzerland
- 2014 Bath Blue, Bath Soft Cheese, UK
- 2013 Montagnolo Affine, Kaserei Champignon, Germany
- 2012 Manchego DO Gran Reserva, Dehesa de los Llanos, Spain
- 2011 Ossau Iraty, Fromagerie Agour, France
- 2010 Cornish Blue, Cornish Blue Cheese Company, England
- 2009 Le Cendrillon, La Maison Alexis de Portneuf, Canada
- 2008 Queso Arico Curado Pimentón, Soc Canaria de Formento, Canary Islands
- 2007 Brie de Meaux, Rénard Gillard, France
- 2006 Ossau Iraty, Fromagerie Agour, France
- 2005 Le Gruyère Premier Cru, Von Mühlenen, Switzerland
- 2004 Camembert de Normandie AOC, Isigny Ste. Mère, France
- 2003 Chevre d’Or Camembert, Eurial-Poitouaine/Eurilait, France
- 2002 Reserve Gruyère, Von Mühlenen entered by H T Webb, Switzerland
- 2001 JOINT CHAMPION: Camembert Super Medaillon, Isigny Ste. Mère, France / Mature Cheddar, Carbery, Ireland
- 2000 Mature West Country Farmhouse Cheddar, Brue Valley Farms, England
- 1999 Kollumer 18 months (Old Dutch Master), Frico Cheese, Holland
- 1998 Mature Traditional Cheddar, Dairy Crest, Sturminster Newton, England
- 1997 Parmigiano Reggiano, Caseficio Vittori Quistello, Italy
- 1996 Lord of the Hundreds, Traditional Cheese Dairy, England
- 1995 Blue Shropshire, Cropwell Bishop Creamery, England
- 1994 Brie de Meaux AOC, Hennart Frères, France
- 1993 Double Gloucester, Diary Crest, Longridge, England
- 1992 Le Gruyère Premier Cru, Von Mühlenen, Switzerland
- 1991 Fourme d’Ambert, Hennart Frères, France
- 1990 Mature Traditional Cheddar, Dairy Crest, Sturminster Newton, England
- 1989 Blue Stilton, Dairy Crest Foods, Hartington, England
- 1988 Blue Cheshire, Hutchinson-Smith & Son, England