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.
Look out for further announcements of this year’s special trophy award winners later this week.
World Cheese Awards 2018 – the background
- The World Cheese Awards is organised by the Guild of Fine Food
- 2018 was the 31st edition of the competition Top of Form
- The planet’s biggest ‘cheese-only’ competition – no yoghurt, cream, butter or other dairy – championing the world’s best cheesemakers, from tiny artisans to global heavyweights
- 3,472 cheeses from 41 different countries entered – including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guernsey, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Liechtenstein, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Scotland, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the USA and Wales
- 235 judges from across the globe travelled from 30 different countries to nose, taste and grade the cheese
- Judging broadcast live on World Cheese TV at www.gff.co.uk/wca
- A Super Jury of 16 judges decided the final winning World Champion Cheese
How the judging works
Judges work in teams of three to four, identifying any cheeses worthy of a Bronze, Silver or Gold award. They look at the rind and the body of the cheese, its colour, texture, consistency and, above all, its taste. Each team then nominates one exceptional cheese as the Super Gold from their table. These 78 cheeses are the best in the world and are judged a second time by the Super Jury of 16 internationally recognised experts, who each select a cheese to champion in the final round of judging. The Super Jury, representing all four corners of the globe, then debates the final 16 in front of a live consumer and trade audience, before choosing the World Champion Cheese live on WCA TV.
Matnasjonen Norge is a brand new Norwegian food event, which took place on Friday 2 and Saturday 3 November at the Grieg Hall in Bergen. Featuring a food festival, conference sessions, presentations and tasting tours, the event gives the country’s producers and chefs a platform to showcase their food and drink and shine a spotlight on the quiet culinary revolution that has taken place in Norway over recent years.
Founded by HANEN, an organisation which champions the best that the Norwegian countryside has to offer, with support from Norway’s Minister of Agriculture and Food, Bård Hoksrud, and the Bergen city government, the festival featured respected industry experts, celebrity chefs and a wide range of artisan producers, bringing hundreds of Norwegian foodservice professionals, buyers, retailers and consumers together in celebration of Norwegian food and drink.
For further information, please contact any of the following:
Sam Brice at Freshly Ground PR
+44 (0) 7961 635960
Amy Brice at Freshly Ground PR
+44 (0) 7717 893123
Tortie Farrand at the Guild of Fine Food
+44 (0) 1747 825200