An American Cheese Won the World Cheese Awards for the First Time Ever
Here's where you can buy it.
It's more than eight months until the next 4th of July, but you're about to be overwhelmed with American pride: For the first time ever, an American cheese has taken the top prize at the World Cheese Awards.
Last Friday, the winners of the 32nd annual competition—which some call The Oscars of cheese—were announced in Bergamo, Italy. More than 3,800 cheeses from 42 countries on six continents were entered, and after three rounds of judging, the Rogue River Blue from Rogue Creamery in Central Point, Oregon was named the World Champion cheese.
The Rogue River Blue narrowly edged the 24-month aged Nazionale del Parmigiano Reggiano Latteria Sociale Santo Stefano (say that one three times) produced by an Italian cheesemaker. The third-place entry was Spain's Torta del Casar DOP Virgen del Prado, a raw sheep's milk cheese.
"This year’s top prize was almost too close to call and I would like to congratulate both Rogue Creamery and Nazionale del Parmigiano Reggiano Latteria Sociale Santo Stefano for going the distance and providing us with one of the most dramatic finales in World Cheese history," John Farrand, managing director of the Guild of Fine Food, which organizes the World Cheese Awards, said in a statement. "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."
American cheeses performed well this year, as seven U.S. cheeses were included in the competition's list of the World's 84 Best Cheeses. But not everyone is celebrating America's new dairy dominance; according to Sky News, France isn't taking the results well. One widely read newspaper in the country called it "sacrilege" that only one French cheese placed in the top 16. (That cheese tied for eighth.)
"We try to celebrate cheeses from around the world, especially those made by smaller artisan cheesemakers. Good cheese is made around the world, not just by the French," Farrand told the network. "I know lots of French people who work in cheese who know that fine cheeses are made in many different countries."
The winning Rogue River Blue is hand-wrapped in Syrah grape leaves that have been soaked in pear liqueur. It's then cave-aged for nine to 11 months. (One Brazilian judge describes it as a "taste party," although Rogue's website modestly describes it as having flavors of "fruit, spice, blackberry, vanilla, hazelnut, chocolate and bacon.")
If you're interested in trying the World's Best Cheese, it helps to be in Oregon, where it's available at a number of retailers and at the Rogue Creamery itself. Facebook commenters have bragged about finding it at Whole Foods locations from California to Florida, and it can be ordered online as either a quarter wheel ($75) or a full wheel ($235).
U-S-A! U-S-A! We're number one... at least until next year's World Cheese Awards.