A soft blue farmhouse cheese made in Norway, two hours from Trondheim, has been named World Champion Cheese at the World Cheese Awards (WCA) 2023, hosted in the central Norwegian city.
Named after the Trøndelag county river, Nidelven Blå is made by third generation farmers, husband and wife Maren and Ole Gangstadt at Gangstadt Gårdsysteri. The handmade, cows’ milk blue mould cheese, which is aged for six to nine months, is already their best-selling cheese – in part, thanks to its successes at previous World Cheese Awards: it won the Best Norwegian cheese in 2019, and a Super Gold in 2020.
Maren Gangstadt, general manager of Gangstadt Gårdsysteri, said winning the award meant the world to them as a small, local dairy.
“This happening on our home turf means a lot, and having all of the crew from the dairy here just adds an extra spark to it.”
She said the fact that the 11-month-old cheese was a returner to the top spot “reflects the work that’s gone into maintaining the quality and consistency.”
The 35th edition of the unique cheese-only competition in the world, first held in 1988, took place in Trondheim, Norway, on Friday, 27th October.
This year saw a record number of cheeses entered – 4,502, from 43 countries – which were judged by an international panel of 264 judges from 38 nations. These included some of the most knowledgeable professionals in the cheese industry, as well as food journalists, retail buyers and experts in other food categories, to make sure the cheeses were assessed with rigour and roundedness.
During the first part of the judging process, the cheeses were given scores on the basis of taste, aroma, flavour and texture, and given a score out of 100, determining whether they were worthy of a bronze, silver or gold medal.
A super jury of 16 experts – including longstanding WCA judge Cathy Strange of Whole Foods Market – then tasted the 100 Super Gold cheeses, each selecting their favourite for a final round of judging.
Among these, there were two cheeses from the UK, three from Italy, two from the Netherlands, two from Switzerland, two – incidentally, by the same maker – from Germany, and single cheeses from India, Austria, Belgium and host country, Norway.
Finbar Deery of Sheridans Cheesemongers in Ireland – who was on the super jury for the first time this year – said he “absolutely loved” the winning cheese, namely the interplay between milk and blue flavours.
“It’s not getting barrelled over by the penicillin, there’s something else going on,” he said.
“The texture was the first thing that hit home. It has this short creaminess and a real dense fudginess.”
He added that a strong point in its favour was that it has a slight bitterness. “We don’t appreciate bitterness in cheese – but when you have such a rich texture, the bitterness comes through and it keeps the whole show on the road.”
Meanwhile, Guild of Fine Food managing director John Farrand said it made him “incredibly proud” to have a Norwegian winner for the third time, after the country’s success in 2016 and 2018, calling it “a testament to the care and effort that has been invested by the Norwegian artisan cheese trade”.
The event was held at the Spektrum indoor arena, as part of Oste-VM festival – a trade conference and consumer event all about cheese taking place on Friday 27th and Saturday 28th October. The public were given access to the venue, allowing them to see the judging arena, and visit exhibitors at the World Cheese Market.
The World Cheese Awards were broadcast live on WCA TV, which will be available to rewatch at gff.co.uk/awards/world-cheese-awards alongside highlights, results and key information about the competition.