Blue River Dairy takes silver medal at International Cheese Awards
Blue River Dairy is officially making one of the best sheep milk cheeses in the world.
The Invercargill sheep milk processing company won a silver medal in the 100 per cent sheep milk cheese category at the International Cheese Awards in Nantwich, England for its Blackmount Cheddar.
The category was open to any country in the world outside the United Kingdom and Blackmount Cheddar was recognised above entries from many countries considered world leaders in producing sheep milk cheeses, including France, Italy, Spain, Cyprus and Greece.
In addition, Blue River Dairy's Curio Bay Pecorino took a silver medal in the Best New Zealand Cheese category which was open to any cheese produced in New Zealand.
Blue River Dairy cheesemaker Wayne (Maxi) Robertson said producing a cheese recognised above countries traditionally producing it was a huge achievement as sheep milk cheesemaking was a relatively new industry in New Zealand.
Robertson put the win down to Southland's excellent milk production and traditional recipes used by the company.
"A lot has got to be said for Southland milk. The pastures and the geographic position of Southland produces very, very good milk."
The Blackmount Cheddar is made similarly to a traditional dairy cheddar made from cow's milk.
There was little difference in its processing, but there was a dramatic difference in flavour between the two, and sheep milk cheddar matured faster, said Robertson.
He said the pecorino was the company's "sheep milk colby", a granulated cheese which had proved a favourite for a wide range of palettes.
Robertson has been making cheese for 47 years. About 13 years ago he decided to make the move into sheep milk cheeses and has been a convert ever since.
He described himself as slightly "biased" towards sheep milk cheeses now, but understood it was not for everyone.
"We are creatures of habit, we're inclined not to be too adventurous. The sheep milk is one that it's taken a while for people to warm to."
The 100 per cent sheep milk cheese category winner was a Murazzano Marenchino PDO, a soft sheep milk cheese from Langhe in the province of Cuneo in Piedmont, northern Italy. The bronze medal went to last year's silver medallist Spain's Marques de Mendiola with its sheep milk Semicurado.
In the competitive category a gouda-style cheese from Ireland and a 100 per cent ewes milk feta from Greece were also "very highly commended".
"It's great to know that our cheeses stand up to the best cheeses from around the world," Robertson said.
The International Cheese Awards in Nantwich is the biggest cheese show in the world and beat its own world record with 5000 entries at the July 27 event. In each category no more than one gold, silver or bronze medal is awarded.