A Norwegian cheese produced at a small dairy farm in Trøndelag won top honours over more than 4,500 others at the World Cheese Awards on Friday. It’s the third time a Norwegian cheese has been crowned as “World Champion” in just the past seven years.
Norway’s cheese industry, long dominated by a state regulated dairy cooperative, has diversified and blossomed in recent years through small private initiative. It’s also attracted lots of international attention, first winning an earlier world championship held in Spain in 2016 when Kraftkar was singled out as the world’s best cheese. In 2018 Fanaosten from Vestlandet won at the World Cheese Awards held that year in Bergen.
Now a handmade semi-solid blue cheese called Nidelven Blå has won based on judging by 264 cheese experts from 38 countries at this year’s event held in Trondheim. “This means so much to us,” said Maren Gangstadt, general manager of cheesemaker Gangstadt Gårdsysteri located at Inderøy in Trøndelag, not far from Trondheim. “We’re a small dairy farm based just two hours from here, so this happening on our home turf means a lot, and having all of the crew from the dairy here adds an extra spark to it.”
Gangstadt, who took over as general manager when her mother-in-law retired earlier this year, said the winning cheese was made around 11 months ago “and is our best-seller.” She said it also won a “Super Gold” award at the World Cheese Awards in 2019 as best Norwegian cheese.
Now it has won top honours, with Irish judge Finbar Deery praising its “interplay between the mild and blue flavours” and claiming that it has “a creamy dense fudginess.” A total of 4,502 cheeses entered in the championships from 43 countries were whittled down to 100 so-called “Super Gold” awards, from which 16 finalists were put forward for re-judging by an international jury to determine the World Champion Cheese for 2023. The championship’s panel of experts included representatives from the Whole Foods Market chain in the US, Swedish retailer Möllans Ost, The Cheese Collective in India, Mons Cheesemongers in the UK and the Cheese Professional Association in Japan.
The top “Super Gold” cheeses came from the UK, the Netherlands, France, Italy, India, Switzerland, Germany, Austria and Belgium. Nidelven Blå was the only “Super Gold” winner from Norway. John Farrand, managing director of the Guild of Fine Food, noted how Norway has triumphed in 2016, 2018 and again this year, calling it “a testament to the care and effort invested by the Norwegian artisan cheese trade.”