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."

A blue cheese wheel, cut in half, is pictured beside a World Cheese Award
For the first time ever, a cheese from the US scooped the top prize at the World Cheese Awards ©Tim Johnston

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”.

A female judge holds up a plate of the organic blue cheese and a gold award
Judge Cathy Strange holds the River Blue Organic Cheese after announcing its win ©Tim Johnston

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."

Judges in white coats sample plates of cheese, displayed on rows of tables
Judges sample the entries at the World Cheese Awards 2019 ©Tim Johnston

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.

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Rogue River Blue cheese against a navy backdrop
Rogue River Blue is made by Rogue Creamery in Central Point, Oregon ©Beryl Striewski

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).

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