Nov 04 2021

Spanish Cheese Olavidia named Best at the World Cheese Awards

The award was presented in Oviedo (Asturias) as part of the International Cheese Festival

Olavidia: that's the name of the Spanish cheese recognized as the best in the world at the 2021 World Cheese Awards. Made in Sierra Moren (Jaén) from goat's milk that is slowly pasteurized, this cheese comes from a small, 6-person artisan cheese company, Quesos y Besos, founded in 2017 by Silvia Peláez and Paco Romero. Surprisingly, it received the highest score in the final, in which 16 cheeses competed after being chosen from the 88 that were classified as Super Gold. Olavidia, characterized by a distinctive layer of olive pit ash from Jaén province, obtained 103 points, five more than the first runner-up and it was the last to be assessed by the judges. Silvia, one of the owners of Quesos y Besos, said: "We're a small, humble cheesemaker in Jaen," adding that "daily labor has its reward."

The 33rd edition of the World Cheese Awards is part of the Asturias Paraíso Natural International Cheese Festival, held in Oviedo, the capital of Asturias, from November 3rd to the 6th. This event is organized by the Institute of Cheese and the Guild of Fine Food in cooperation with the Asturian government, Oviedo's city government and Spain's Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Since the morning of the 3rd, Oviedo's Exhibition and Congress Center was packed at what is considered the most crowded event to date. More than 4,000 cheeses from all over the world patiently waited to be tasted by the panel of 230 judges from six continents. Organized in 88 groups of two to three judges, they tasted between 40 and 45 cheeses of all kinds in a blind tasting. The 88 Super Gold cheeses were chosen, and from that group 16 moved on to the next phase, in which Olavidia was considered the best. The names of the finalist cheeses as well as those of the other cheeses that received medals will be announced in the coming days.

Roundtable discussions, tastings for the general public and an innovation forum

The Asturias Paraíso Natural International Cheese Festival comprises much more than just the World Cheese Awards. This edition, which is expected to be attended by more than 10,000 people, also includes a forum to discuss, share and live experiences around science through presentations of cheese and livestock projects, focusing especially on new technological developments, new forms of certification, etc. The presentations, which include the participation of experts from different disciplines, are focused on the ability to undertake a scientific-technological, economic and social revolution of food through cheese.

There is also a roundtable discussion called "The Importance and the Future of the Dairy-Cheese Sector: European, National and Local Perspectives," with the participation of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; the European Commission; the Asturian government; and representatives from the dairy sector and agri-food research in Asturias. This discussion will address topics such as European policies in support of cheese to climate neutrality challenges in the sector.

In addition to these activities, the Asturias Paraíso Natural International Cheese Festival is a unique opportunity, open to the general public, to raise awareness about the diversity of cheese not only in Spain, but also around the world, through informational activities and, of course, tastings. Accordingly, the event has an exhibition space for products of different designations of origin (PDO), protected geographical indications (PGI), regional protected foods and, of course, food from Asturias. There's also a market where attendees can buy cheeses from different countries, and renowned chefs will be on hand to highlight different ways to use cheese in recipes through a fun show called Gastro Cheese Comedy. Because, in the end, gastronomy (and cheese, of course) is culture, but it's also fun.

Author: Javier Sánchez/@ICEX