Nidelven Blå entered by Norwegian cheesemaker Gangstad Gårdsysteri has just been crowned World Champion Cheese at the World Cheese Awards on 27 October 2023, at the Trondheim Spektrum, Norway. 

The World Champion Cheese, the highest accolade given, rose to the top of the record-breaking 4,502 entries in this year’s World Cheese Awards, where the best cheeses from around the globe went head-to-head at the world’s largest cheese-only event. Every cheese is meticulously evaluated, considering factors such as the appearance of the rind and paste, the cheese’s aroma, body, texture, and most notably, its flavour and mouthfeel.

Maren Gangstadt, general manager of Gangstadt Gårdsysteri, who took over from her mother-in-law when she retired earlier this year, says: “This means so much to us.  We’re a small dairy farm based just two hours from here, so this happening on our home turf means a lot, and having all of the crew from the dairy here adds an extra spark to it.

“This cheese was made in January so it’s about 11 months old now and it’s our best seller. It got a Super Gold in the 2019 World Cheese Awards as best Norwegian cheese, reflecting the work that’s gone into maintaining the quality and consistency.”

The World Champion Cheese 2023 is a handmade, semi solid, blue mould cheese made with pasteurised cows’ milk.  The Ysteriet farm-based dairy is proud to employ talented local people, creating 14 full-time jobs of the local village. 

Championed by Super Jury Judge Finbar Deery, head of retail at Sheridans, Ireland who says: “What I loved most about this cheese was the interplay between the milk and the blue flavours, so it’s not getting barrelled over by the penicillin. The texture was the first thing that hit home, it has a creamy dense fudginess. It’s a reasonably bitter cheese as well, we don’t appreciate bitterness in cheese, when you have such a rich texture, the bitterness comes through and it keeps the whole show on the road.”

Named after the Trøndelag county river, Nidelven Blå is made just two hours from the centre of Trondheim, the host city for the 2023 World Cheese Awards.

A panel of leading cheese experts, including critics, chefs, recipe creators, buyers, retailers, journalists, broadcasters, and other experts in the field came together to taste and assess each cheese to decide if they were worthy of a Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Super Gold award.

Through the judging process, 4,502 cheeses were whittled down to 100 Super Golds, from which 16 finalists were put forward to be re-judged by an International Super Jury for the World Cheese Award to determine an overall winner: the World Champion Cheese for 2023

The crowds watched on as some of the finest palates in the global cheese community debated the best of the best. The international Super Jury judging the final stage of proceedings consisted of 16 cheese experts from across the globe who tasted the final 16 in front of a live audience and broadcast on World Cheese TV before crowning this year’s World Champion Cheese. 

The panel of experts included, amongst others, Cathy Strange from Whole Foods Market in the USA, Peter Mårtensson from Swedish retailer Möllans Ost, Mansi Jasani from The Cheese Collective in India, Jon Thrupp from Mons Cheesemongers in the UK, and Aki Sakagami from the Cheese Professional Association in Japan, 

The top 16 Super Gold cheeses:

  1. Sinodun Hill from Norton and Yarrow Cheese, UNITED KINGDOM. Soft, pasteurised goats’ milk cheese matured for 1 to 3 weeks. (Championed by Kelsie Parsons, Canada)
  2. Old Amsterdam Goat from Westland Kaasexport, NETHERLANDS. Semi-hard, pasteurised goats’ milk cheese matured for 6 to 9 months. (Championed by Peter Mårtensson, Sweden)
  3. Goustal La Bergere from Société des Caves, FRANCE. Soft, pasteurised sheeps’ milk cheese matured for 6 weeks to 3 months. (Championed by Catherine Fogel, Denmark)
  4. Wigmore from Village Maid Cheese, UNITED KINGDOM. Soft, thermised sheeps’ milk cheese matured for 5-9 weeks. (Championed by Svein Erik Backlund, Norway)
  5. Parmigiano Reggiano 30-39 Months from Nazionale Parmigiano Reggiano Rastelli Fratelli, ITALY. Unpasteurised cows’ milk cheese matured for 30 to 39 months. (Championed by Davide Fiori Guffanti, Italy)
  6. Holland Delta, 1 Year Old from Van der Heiden Kaas, NETHERLANDS. Pasteurised cows’ milk cheese matured for 1 year, with a sweet flavour derived from a secret rennet. (Championed by Mansi Jasani, India)
  7. Eleftheria Brunost from Vivanda Gourmet, INDIA. Pasteurised cows’ milk cheese matured for 0 to 2 weeks. Handmade by cooking indigenous pasteurised cows’ milk whey & cream in a traditional vessel resembling a wok. (Championed by Cathy Strange, USA)
  8. Eberle Würzig Seit 5 Generationen from Dorfkäserei Muolen, SWITZERLAND. Hard, unpasteurised cows’ milk cheese matured for 8 months. (Championed by Débora Pereira, France)
  9. Deichkäse Gold from Rohmilchkäserei Backensholz, GERMANY. Hard, unpasteurised organic cows’ milk cheese matured for 12 to 18 months. (Championed by Georgina Yescas, Mexico)
  10. Kärntnermilch Mölltaler Almkäse Selektion 50% FiT. from Kärntnermilch, AUSTRIA. Hard, pasteurised cows’ milk cheese matured for 12 months. (Championed by Aki Sakagami, Japan)
  11. Lamucca Di Castagno from Romagna Terre, ITALY. Pasteurised cows’ milk cheese aged with chestnut leaf powder for 3 to 6 months. (Championed by Patrick McGuigan, UK)
  12. Baliehof Houtlandse Asche Kaas from Baliehof Kaas En Zuivelboerderij Jabbeke, BELGIUM. Hard, unpasteurised cows’ milk cheese matured for 3 months. (Championed by Suzy O’Regan, South Africa)
  13. Müller-Thurgau Rezent from Käserei Müller-Thurgau, SWITZERLAND. Hard, washed-rind, pasteurised cows’ milk cheese matured for 11 months. (Championed by Jon Thrupp)
  14. Nidelven Blå from Gangstad Gårdsysteri, NORWAY. Pasteurised cows’ milk blue cheese matured for 11 months. (Championed by Finbar Deery, Ireland)
  15. Pirano from La Bufalara, ITALY. Semi-hard, pasteurised buffalo milk cheese matured for 3 to 6 months. (Championed by Evert Schonhage, Netherlands)
  16. Michel from Rohmilchkäserei Backensholz, GERMANY. Unpasteurised cow’s and goats’ milk cheese matured for 14 to 16 months. (Championed by Ana Belén González Pinos, Spain)

John Farrand, managing director of the Guild of Fine Food, organisers of the World Cheese Awards, commented: “It makes me incredibly proud that we have once again a Norwegian winner, after the country triumphed in 2016, and again in 2018. This success is testament to the care and effort that has been invested by the Norwegian artisan cheese trade.   

“We’ve more entries than ever before, and I get more excited about the diversity in the nations represented and the breadth of styles and cheesemaking techniques from across the globe.”

A remarkable 4,502 cheeses submitted for the 35th edition of the World Cheese Awards, marking a 6% increase from the previous year. These entries represented 43 countries and garnered participation from 954 companies across the world (7.23% UK-based, 92.77% international). Notably, the competition featured return entries from relative newcomer entrants in recent years including Poland, India, Liechtenstein and Turkey amongst others. Well-established cheese-producing nations such as Italy, Spain, France, and the United Kingdom were well represented by both returning contenders and newcomers, with the highest number of entries coming from Spain. Host country Norway put forward their highest ever number of entries, with 293 Norwegian cheeses competing this year.  Across the competition, a vast range of styles and maturations were on display, showcasing a diverse array of milks including buffalo’s, cows’, goats’ and sheep’s.

All entries were judged in a single day, as 264 experts from 38 different nations studied their appearance, texture, aroma, and flavour. Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Super Gold accolades were awarded during the morning session before the Super Golds were reassessed to find this year’s top 16 cheeses, from which the World Champion Cheese for 2023 was selected and crowned.

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Editor: Kiran Grewal