Limited Edition Cognac BellaVitano, from Wisconsin’s Sartori Foods, takes third place overall.
Source: U.S. Dairy Export Council news release
United States cheese makers came away with 85 medals at last week’s World Cheese Awards—the most ever for U.S. entrants in this esteemed international competition.
Globally, hundreds of cheese companies participated, sending more than 2,500 cheeses to Birmingham, England, where they were judged by a field of more than 200 expert tasters from around the world.
Even more impressive was how the United States fared in the advanced judging rounds: American cheese makers sent four cheeses to the final round of 16. Limited Edition Cognac BellaVitano, from Sartori Foods, Plymouth, Wis., took third place overall from the final evaluation, also earning it a trophy for the “Best U.S. Cow’s Milk Cheese,” an award sponsored by the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC).
“This past 10 years has witnessed a phenomenal rise in U.S. cheeses on the world stage,” says Bob Farrand, award chairman of the competition, which is organized by The Guild of Fine Food. “To come third in the world is a tremendous achievement and the volume of awards amassed this year is a fitting testimony to a generation of U.S. cheese makers at the very top of their game.”
USDEC encourages stateside participation by sponsoring the “Best U.S. Cow’s Milk Cheese” trophy each year. USDEC involvement with the World Cheese Awards, supported by U.S. dairy producers through their checkoff program, along with other USDEC market development programs and activities, help drive global demand for U.S. cheese and other dairy products by enhancing the quality image of U.S. supply in overseas markets.
“When U.S. cheeses shine in a competition like this on a global stage, it reflects on the quality of all U.S. dairy products,” says Angélique Hollister, director of cheese and manufactured products, USDEC. “Sartori’s Cognac BellaVitano is a perfect example of how U.S. cheese makers can stand toe to toe with the traditions of European cheese makers and add something unique to those cheese traditions.”
Cognac BellaVitano, introduced by Sartori just two years ago, is an 18-month cheese soaked for more than a week in Remy Martin Cognac. Company president Jeff Schwager says it is one of the latest in a line of treated cheeses spun from the original BellaVitano Gold.
Another Sartori entry – Sartori Reserve Cinnamon-rubbed BellaVitano – also made it to the final round of 16. It was joined by Cardona, from Carr Valley Cheese Co., Lavalle, Wis., and Bloomsdale, from Baetje Farms, Bloomsdale, Mo. In addition, two more U.S. cheeses – Bandaged Wrapped Cheddar from Fiscalini Cheese, Modesto, Calif., and Spring Brook Farm Tarentaise from the Farms for City Kids Foundation, Reading, Vt. – reached the intermediate round of 50 to earn coveted “Super Gold” medals.
There were 46 U.S. companies entering a total of 383 U.S.-made cheeses in the World Cheese Awards this year. Carr Valley paced the field with 11 medals. Other multiple-award winning companies included internationally-affiliated companies like Sorrento Lactalis and Lactalis USA Group, and cheeses originating on small Vermont farmsteads, finished and entered by the Cellars of Jasper Hill.
“This year’s winners speak volumes about how far U.S. specialty cheese making has come,” says Hollister. “We saw Vermont-made traditional clothbound Cheddars that held their own against British rivals, farmstead cheeses that ran neck-and-neck with those from France, Spain and Italy, and American originals.”
Judging and the awards presentation took place at the BBC Good Food Show, one of the top consumer food events in Europe, which draws more than 80,000 visitors each year. Cheese makers sent winning entries from across Europe, Oceania, North America, South Africa and other places around the globe. The overall top award this year went to a 10-month Ossau Iraty from French farmhouse producer Fromagerie Agou. The runner-up was Cornish Blue by Britain’s Cornish Blue Co.
Sponsorship of the World Cheese Awards is one of many export marketing activities conducted each year by the dairy checkoff-funded USDEC. In 2011, for example, the organization has held numerous trade missions and seminars that brought together U.S. suppliers and overseas buyers to continually expand markets for U.S. cheese and ingredients.