Kraftkar World Champion 2016

A Norwegian blue has been crowned the best cheese on the planet after a surprising and emotional finale to the 29th annual World Cheese Awards, held in the Basque Country city of San Sebastian.

The final cheese to be judged by the Super Jury, Kraftkar took the title at the very last second with Gunnar Waagen of artisan producer Tingvollost celebrating wildly in the audience of several hundred spectators.

It had looked as though a Spanish cheese would be taking the top honour at the event, organised by the Guild of Fine Food and co-sponsored by the Basque Government and Idiazabal co-op Artzai Gazta.

The torta-style Cremositos Del Zujar and the washed rind goats’ milk Cala Blanc were both tied on a score of 67 before the panel awarded 71 points to Kraftkar.

Judging began in the morning at San Sebastian’s Kursaal event space with some 266 judges, representing 26 different nations, assessing 3,021 cheeses from 31 countries.

Sixty six separate teams awarded Bronze, Silver and Gold awards to cheeses in a variety of styles before each choosing a Super Gold to put before the Super Jury judging panel.

The panel – which featured experts from the UK, Japan, South Africa, Mexico, France, Italy and Sweden – then narrowed the selection down to just 16. Each of these were tasted and scored in front of camera crews and a live audience.

Within moments of his triumph, a tearful Gunnar Waagen said: “I have no words. It is marvellous. I don’t believe it.”

“We’ve made cheese for about 10 years. We are a little family in the middle of Norway trying to do our best every day. We get up early and sleep late.”

Nick Trioros of Canada’s Olympic Cheese, who championed the cheese in the final judging sessions, said: “The mould in this cheese is developed really nicely. It’s very evenly distributed. On top of that, the texture is great: when it crumbles you get a soft creaminess. And on the finish, it coats your tongue with a real soft landing.”

This year’s Super Jury, included Whole Foods Markets global cheese buyer Cathy Strange, Selfridges deli chief Adrian Boswell and Suzy O’Regan, cheese specialist at the Woolworth’s store chain in South Africa.