The official ‘best cheese in the world’ is French, it has been ruled at this year’s sixth annual Le Mondial du Fromage competition, judged by 12 cheese experts from across the world.
The winner, declared on September 12, was l'Époisses Perrière, by the fromagerie Berthaut, based in Époisses (Côte-d'Or).
The cheese beat more than 200 competitors from 48 countries to the title, receiving the best scores from the team of 12 judges.
"There were 1,550 cheeses selected on Sunday morning, then they shortlisted the 12 cheeses with the best scores,” said Christophe Prouvost, managing director of the fromagerie Berthaut.
He told FranceInfo: “We weren't sure who had been shortlisted, but then an international jury voted, in the presence of the President of Rungis Markets, Stéphane Layani.”
Rungis is a famous, premium food market in Paris.
“We were delighted, firstly, to see that we had been shortlisted and, secondly, to be awarded the highest score ahead of the other cheeses, particularly the Swiss ones,” said Mr Prouvost. “We're very happy and very proud at the fromagerie.”
He added that the win was also a victory for the industry, and the AOP (appellation d'origine protégée), and great recognition of the history of cheesemaking and the fromagerie employees’ work.
“We're even prouder knowing that we're carrying on the history of our region,” he said, explaining that in the 1950s, there were only two farms producing Epoisses.
“Berthault saved the cheese from the verge of extinction,” he said.
France dominates the board
Of the top 12 cheeses identified in the competition (of which three drew at 10th place and two drew at 7th place), 10 were from France.
In second place was L’Etivaz AOP from Switzerland, while Brazilian cheese Caprinus do Lago came in joint seventh place (with the Trèfle du Perche).
The cheese jury
So who were the jury overseeing this French fromage-fest? You could be forgiven for thinking they must all be French…but in fact, only one judge (the president of the jury) hails from the Hexagon.
The 12-strong team (plus the president) was in fact made up of an international array of cheese experts from across the world.
It included cheese authors, producers, importers, buyers, and owners.
Jury President: Stéphane Layani, France - President and director general of Rungis Markets
Aleksey Andreev, Serbia - Ambassador of Bulgaria to Spain and Andorra
Armando Brusato, Italy - Grana Padano & Parmigiano Reggiano Selector, Buyer and Export Manager
Catherine Fogel, Denmark - Food and beverages purchasing manager, and Cheese Maître for the Guide International des Fromagers
Debora de Carvalho Pereira, Brazil - Cheese producer and Brazilian Artisanal Cheeses expert
Elena Beatriz Coste, Argentina - University professor, Argentine cheese culture expert, and author of a specialist cheese guide
Jan Dupont, Belgique - Cheese consultant and owner at Dupont Cheese Belgium
Luisa Villegas, Spain - Cheese expert and managing director and CEO of Instituto del Queso
Marc Blondel, Switzerland - Innovative cheese producer
Nanny Seyman, Israel - Founder and CEO at Seyman, quality food importers
Pascal Vittu, USA - Cheese expert and owner at Vraiment Fromage Inc
Robert Bengtsson, Sweden - Swedish cheese expert at cheese specialist store and restaurant Falbygdens Osteria, Falköping, Sweden
Yannick Achim, Canada - Cheese merchant and expert in Montreal
The full list of finalists