For the first time ever, a cheese from the US scooped the top prize at the World Cheese Awards (the 'Oscars' of cheese), impressing judges with its "sweet and spicy notes."
Last Friday, the winners of the annual World Cheese Awards were announced in Bergamo, Italy. A record-breaking 3804 cheeses from 42 countries entered this year, displayed on tables to be blind-tested by judges clad in white coats and armed with cheese knives. After a three rounds of judging, the Rogue River Blue from Rogue Creamery in Central Point, Oregon, was named World Champion Cheese - the top honour.
Made from organic cow's milk, Rogue River Blue is aged between nine and 11 months and then hand-wrapped in organic Syrah grape leaves that have been soaked in pear liquor. Competition judge Bruno Cabral described the cheese as a “taste party”, praising its “different sensations, balance, sweet and spicy notes”.
Rogue Creamery notes on its website that this year was a particularly good year for Rogue River Blue: "The rinds developed beautifully and the flavor is exceptional, exhibiting the fruit, spice, blackberry, vanilla, hazelnut, chocolate and bacon flavors for which this cheese is known."
John Farrand, managing director of the Guild of Fine Food, organisers of the World Cheese Awards, said this year’s winner was "almost too close to call," adding: "Rogue Creamery has been at the forefront of the US artisan cheese revolution for some years, so it seems very fitting for them to be the first American winners of our World Champion Cheese trophy."
According to the New York Times, sales for Rogue River Blue have increased by 500% since the win. International distributors like Neal’s Yard Dairy and La Fromagerie in London, have increased their orders, alongside new interest from shops in Spain and the Netherlands.
American cheese buffs who want to get their hands on Rogue River Blue can purchase a quarter wheel for US$75 directly from Rogue Creamery, but it's also available in some Whole Foods stores and cheese specialists like Murray's Cheese in New York City and Michael's Gourmet Pantry in Las Vegas.
It was the first win for an American cheese in the competition's 32-year history. Sixteen of the top cheeses came from Italy, Spain, the UK, Japan, France, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Second place was awarded to a 24-month aged parmesan from Italy (Nazionale del Parmigiano Reggiano made by Latteria Sociale Santo Stefano), while third place went to a raw ewe's milk cheese from Spain (Torta del Casar D.O.P. Virgen Del Prado made by Queseria Doña Francisca).