This Spanish Cheese Was Just Named The 'World's Best' For 2021

Those of us who love our cheeses will have a go-to type that we prefer. It can be made with cow's milk, goat's milk, sheep's milk — it can be either soft or hard, sharp and smelly or sweet and mild. It can even be either milky or marked with blue mold. For experts this year, the one cheese to rule them all was a soft goat's cheese which British judge Jason Hinds, described as having a "rich, seductive, creamy texture [with] a flavor that was round and warm" (via CNN). 

The artisanal Olavidia came from a farm named Quesos y Besos — or Cheeses and Kisses — and it beat out a soft cheese from French maker Fromagerie Berthaut, which had been leading until the very end. The cheesemaker, whose real name is Lacteos Romero Pelaez, is so small that it is staffed by only six people. The cheese is a labor of love for its producer Silvia Pelaez, who called herself "a small humble cheesemaker in Jaen." The southern Spanish area is known for its olives, so there should be no surprises that it sports a very thin layer of olive stone ash, which is visible when you cut the cheese in half, as it runs through the middle (via Food & Wine).    

How a cheese makes its mark

Olavidia appears to be a bloomy rind cheese, aged with penicillium candidum that could make it something of a cousin to camembert, which relies on the same bacterium to make it what it is (via CNN). The panel of 250 judges were made up of chefs, sommeliers, cheese mongers and food scientists that were given the chance to get up close and personal with 45 cheeses, and then handed down scores based on appearance, flavor, taste, and feel. 

The cheeses were also given marks based on factors including the "appearance of the rind and paste, as well as the cheese's aroma, body and texture, with the majority of points awarded for flavor and mouthfeel." Olavidia was a departure from the last winner, who took top marks during the 2019 competition. That year saw an American entry, the Rogue River Blue, named top cheese during the competition held in Bergamo, Italy. We can only imagine that this year's event was something of a celebration too, since last year's event was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.