So the dust has settled after last month's World Cheese Awards and I've had a bit of time to digest (literally) what went on. The Supreme Champion, whittled down from more than 2,700 entries by hundreds of judges (including me), was a German cheese called Montagnolo Affine from a company called Käserei Champignon in Bavaria.
Made with pasteurised cow's milk, it's a rich and creamy blue with a natural grey rind. “A blue cheese for people who don't like blue cheese,” is how one of the expert judges on the final panel of 16 described it.
What was remarkable about the result was that Montagnolo Affine was entered into two categories at the World Cheese Awards and both cheeses made it through several rounds of blind judging to be voted first and second with just one point between them. It's a result that is testament to the accuracy of blind judging. On top of that, Montagnolo Affine also won the top title at the Nantwich International Cheese Show in 2012, which I wrote about here.
So is this double Supreme Champion really the best cheese in the world?
Well, it's certainly a good cheese. Sweet and buttery with a soft, velvety grey rind, it's a real crowd pleaser. But I have to confess that I was left scratching my head as to why two sets of expert judges made it their champion.
For me, the best cheeses are the ones that have complexity, length and that something extra - flavours that are elusive and beguiling. A great cheese makes you stop and think and challenges you in some way, so that you have to cut another slice and another and another.
I didn't get that from Montagnolo Affine. It's lovely in an easy, upfront way, which is perhaps explains why it has done so well in cheese competitions. For every judge who likes a challenging cheese, there will be another who disagrees. These kinds of cheeses naturally provoke debate and strong opinions so fall by the wayside over the course of several rounds of blind judging. On the other hand, everyone can agree that something sweet and creamy, like Montagnolo Affine, is delicious.Like I said, it's a real crowd pleaser.
Anyway, why not decide for yourself and let me know what you think. Montagnolo Affine is sold in Tesco, Sainsbury's, Waitrose and independent retailers.