Festivals & Events

International Cheese Awards 2019

Cheese, glorious cheese! We were thrilled to be invited back for the recent press launch for this year’s International Cheese Awards. We had gone along last year and still had vivid, and fond, memories of the wonderful array of cheeses on offer – and the generous goody bags handed out at the end of the event.

The International Cheese Awards 2019 will involve 300 experts and 150 stewards recruited to sample and judge the awards on 30 July, before the cheeses are presented to the public on 31 July at Nantwich’s annual agricultural show.

The biggest cheese show in the world

It is the biggest cheese show in the world, originating in 1897 and expected to attract over 5000 cheeses from Great Britain, Europe, and beyond this year. Including more entries than ever from the US, which we were told is going through a ‘cheese revival’, along with examples from Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

The organisers describe the awards as ‘the Oscars of the dairy world’, and the event as a ‘barometer for the global and dairy industry: dictating new trends, introducing innovation [and] celebrating traditional cheesemakers’.

Producers large and small

Larger-scale, rather than artisanal, producers naturally predominate, though of course the two could and should work together as Charlie Turnbull of the Academy of Cheese demonstrated in his fascinating presentation at the press launch about their heritage cheese project. And Richard Paul of Bradburys Cheese had some great ideas for cheese and wine pairings.

Although its main focus is cheese, ICA includes awards for its accompaniments, along with other dairy products such as the Granarolo yoghurt which included some strawberry jam lurking at the base.

Cheeses – the stars of the show!

But the real stars of the show were the cheeses! We were especially pleased to re-encounter Welsh Dragon’s vintage cheddar with leeks – our stand-out memory from last year, and to try some of their new ideas too – in some particularly distinctive and classy packaging. And we weren’t at all surprised to find last year’s Supreme Award silver cup on the Belton Farm stand, for its coloured Cheshire; though it was their Red Fox, an aged Red Leicester, which once again won our hearts.)

If we were asked to choose just one cheese as our stand-out memory from this year, it would actually be French: a small sample of a perfectly à point Brie de Meaux from Renard Gillard.

But you know what? It was like the running competition in Alice in Wonderland – we could only conclude, on the basis of our sampling, that ‘everybody has won and all must have prizes’. Or come to feel that they deserve them, at any rate!