What In The World Are The World Cheese Awards?
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Over 4,000 hopefuls from 42 countries across the globe vie for the top spot every year at the World Cheese Awards, the ultimate celebration of cheese on the planet. It's the party you didn't know you were missing out on. Until now, that is. This year, two Indian cheese makers qualified for the final rounds of competition, making quite a splash on the international cheese scene. The World Cheese Awards have been around since 1988 and are considered one of the most prestigious events in the cheese industry. The World Cheese Awards provide an opportunity for cheese makers from all corners of the world to showcase their best products, with a panel of expert judges evaluating the entries for their flavor, texture, and aroma. The competition is fierce, with the very best cheeses being rewarded with gold, silver, and bronze awards. This article will explore the history of the event and take a closer look at the three award-winning Indian entries.

The World Cheese Awards are held every year by the Guild of Fine Food, a British industry journal publisher. Bob Farrand founded the company in 1992; it is now run by his family following his retirement in 2021 last year. The company hosts two events annually: the Great Taste Awards and the Great Cheese Awards. The company has been hosting the latter since 1988, well before it was officially established. The company crowns a singular "World Champion" and awards the other entrants with medals, namely gold, silver, and bronze. Past World Champions include classics like the Parmigiano Reggiano by Caseficio Vittorio Quistello (1997) and contemporary rounds such as the Rogue River Blue by Rogue Creamery of Central Point (2019). This year's champion is the Le Gruyere AOP surchoix by Gourmino; the traditional hard cheese earned the title after beating out over 4,400 other entrants in a final round scored by over 250 judges.

India wasn't one to miss either. In a first, two Indian fromageries, Käse by Kirke Cheese Pvt Ltd. and Eleftheria by Vivanda Gourmet, participated in the 2022 competition in Wales on November 2. Käse’s entry, Lavender Fields, an aged semi-hard curd cheese infused with lavender, was awarded a bronze medal. The cheese retails for Rs. 450 for 150 grams on the company’s website. Both of Eleftheria’s entries bagged medals, the Brunost a silver and the Moony a gold. The Brunost is a Norwegian-style whey cheese characterized by notes of salted caramel and toffee, and the Moony is a traditional clothbound cheddar. Both cheeses are available for purchase on the company’s website, with the Brunost priced at Rs. 350 for a 150-gram brick and the Moony at Rs. 550 for a 200-gram slice.

Though India only entered the fray this year, it is by no means the country’s first run with the world’s favorite dairy product. India has been making cheese for centuries, from household staples like paneer to regional specialties like the Kashmiri kalari. The country is no stranger to artisanal cheese either, with institutions such as Kodai Cheese serving citizens with various European-style blocks since its inception in the 1970s.

Fast forward to today, and the country's artisanal cheese scene is thriving, with everything from new-age cheeses made using proprietary recipes to European-style cheeses made with locally sourced ingredients to high-quality traditional Indian cheeses available across the country. The category is also more accessible than ever, with most fromageries in the country offering pan-India shipping for aged and dry cheeses, as well as retail offerings that are sold in supermarkets and on e-commerce websites. The rise in subscription services has also helped the craft cheese movement immensely, especially in the cities that the fromageries are based in. Darima Farms and Living Food are both excellent choices in this regard. The former is one of India’s first contemporary craft cheese companies, selling a range of hard cheeses and cheese spreads across the country through their website and partner stores. The latter is one of India’s most popular fresh food subscription companies that sells fresh cheese in select cities under its Fresh Cheese Collective label.

There is also no shortage of modern fromages. Both Käse (in Chennai) and Eleftheria (in Mumbai) are great examples, offering a wide variety of cheeses for sale on their websites and in their physical locations. The physical locations of both stores feature cheeses that aren't available on their respective websites because of the short shelf life and temperature-sensitive nature of said offerings, which include the likes of burrata, mozzarella, stracciatella, burrata, mascarpone, et al. Both stores also sell contemporary iterations of these cheeses, infusing them with ingredients such as truffle, herbs, and local spices.