Celebrating Spanish Cheese
In mid-November, the city of San Sebastián was transformed into the world cheese capital, a recognition that very few cities in the world can claim. This was due to the fact that this Basque City played host to the celebration of the World Cheese Awards, an annual event organized by the Guild of Fine Food that is typically held in the British city of Birmingham. However, on this occasion, the event chose to add itself to the list of activities taking place in San Sebastián as part of the city's designation as the 2016 European Capital of Culture. To do so, it relied on a collaboration with Basque shepherds' association Artzai Gazta, which went all out to ensure that this edition of the World Cheese Awards would be a huge success
3,063 cheeses from all over the world qualified for the 2016 edition of the World Cheese Awards. These were scored by 266 judges from 26 countries, which were divided into 66 teams of four cheese tasters per table.
These staggering numbers serve to underline the importance of this international competition, which culminated with a Norwegian winner, but also with a solid Spanish presence in terms of awards. Not only did these include second and third place rankings, but also the coveted Super Gold designation. In fact, 28 of the 66 cheeses that received this prestigious title were from Spain. The following is a summary of some of the award-winning Spanish cheeses from this year's World Cheese Awards.
Second and third place
This cheese is made by Sa Canova de Ferreries in Menorca. This company typically produces the Mahón cheeses that this island is known for, but this product is different. It is a semi-soft cheese made with pasteurized cow's milk. The cheese is creamy and yielding in texture, with very few "eyes".
Cremositos del Zújar tied for second place with Cala Blanc on the Festival's list of sixteen finalists. It is made by Arte Serena, a company located in the town of Campanario, Badajoz (Extremadura), that specializes in the regional Torta cheeses. Cremositos del Zújar are made with raw milk from 100% Merino ewes.
Four cheeses produced by El Bosqueño (El Bosque, Cádiz) were included on the list of the 66 best cheeses in the world. One of these tied with a Gorgonzola for third place. Made from Grazalameña breed sheep's milk, the cheese has an external coating of wheat bran.
Some Super Gold Cheeses
El Teyedu is a blue cheese from D. O. Cabrales made with raw, whole cow's milk. This cheese, each round of which weighs between two and three kilos, is noteworthy for its special texture and extreme creaminess, which comes from its ripenening process in a cave.
Artzai Gazta, which was one of the organizers of the event in San Sebastián, is comprised of 112 shepherds who make cheese from the milk of Latxa ewes in Álava, Guipúzcoa, Navarra and Vizcaya, the area that makes up Denomination of Origin Idiazabal. Two of its products obtained the Super Gold designation. One of these was Baztarika, which is made in Gabiria (Guipúzcoa) alongside the Eztanda River, and the other was Santamañe, from Vizcaya.
Produced by Quesos El Pastor in Cristina de la Polvorosa, Zamora, this cheese is characterized by its subtle aromas and pleasant palate. The company attributes its success to the high percentage of sheep and goat's milk in the blend, as well as its ripening.
Two cheeses from the Canary Islands obtained Super Gold distinctions. One was Bodega Oveja Finca Uga, a cheese made at a farm by the same name that was founded in late 2006 in the town of Uga, Lanzarote. The other was Selectum curado pimentón by Grupo Ganaderos de Fuerteventura, a cured goat's milk cheese coated in Spanish paprika from a company founded in the early 1980s on the island of Fuerteventura.
The brand Rey Silo is one of the latest surprises in the cheese making panorama of Asturias. Made by Quesería Artesanal de Pravia – which belongs to Pascual Cabaño, Ernesto Madera and well-known chef José Andrés – the company's cheese selection includes some small pieces that are made exclusively for the restaurant Casa Gerardo. These mini cheeses, or "kisses from King Silo" boast a singular raw ingredient: the milk comes from the only farmer in the town of Otero, in the hamlet of Salas.
Made by Finca Fuentillezjos, this organic sheep's milk cheese has an external coating of honey and rosemary. Located in Poblete, Ciudad Real, the company embarked on its mission to make an organic Manchego cheese a decade ago. Today they boast a herd of 2,600 Manchega sheep.
3,063 cheeses from all over the world qualified for the 2016 edition of the World Cheese Awards. These were scored by 266 judges from 26 countries, which were divided into 66 teams of four cheese tasters per table