A farmer-owned creamery in North Wales is celebrating after its tasty Double Gloucester cheese scooped a gold award and went on to be crowned the best cheese in Wales.
South Caernarfon Creamery’s double triumph came at the prestigious 2021 Virtual Cheese Awards where they competed against the best cheesemakers from across the UK.
The glittering awards ceremony was hosted by TV and radio food broadcaster and all-round local artisan food champion Nigel Barden.
The 13-strong judging panel included MasterChef winner Druv Baker; founder of the Academy of Cheese, Tracey Colley; and Marks and Spencer cheese buyer Chris Dawson.
According to the senior commercial manager, Nick Beadman, the twin honours were a major endorsement of the mastery of cheese production at co-operative based in Chwilog in Gwynedd.
He said: “Our Double Gloucester has sublime buttery, mellow notes which particularly appealed to the expert judges. It is quite a young cheese which only needs about two to three months to mature unlike a rich cheddar which can take up to 12 months.
“We are particularly pleased with this Double Gloucester and our faith in it has now been rewarded by such an esteemed panel of independent judges making it a double winner.
“We are all delighted. This is a real testament to the amount of hard work we put into producing the best quality cheeses we can. It is a dazzling start to the cheese awards season.
“For us to win two top prizes from one of the most important judging panels in the industry is a coup for everyone who works here and for all our farmer members.”
The creamery also makes other acclaimed territorial cheeses including Red Leicester and Welsh Caerphilly, along with its popular Dragon brand of table cheeses which are a big hit with customers all over the Wales and parts of the UK.
Nick and the team are hopeful they will also do well at the usual high profile annual cheese competitions which are due to reopen this summer and autumn, providing Covid restrictions are lifted.
In the past South Caernarfon Creameries has achieved success at a number of UK and international cheese competitions including Nantwich International Cheese Awards, the British Cheese Awards, World Cheese Awards, and Global Cheese Awards.
Nick said: “One of the key ingredients in our regular successes is the fact that we consistently maintain the excellence of our products, putting ourselves at the forefront of cheese production in Britain.
“This is award is recognition from a panel of distinguished experts that we are getting it right and we are looking forward to further sales growth for our Double Gloucester, alongside our other award-winning cheeses in future.”
The Virtual Cheese Awards competition was launched for the first time last year after the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic to promote and celebrate the best of British cheese and give the industry a boost in a time of great need.
In 2020 the Virtual Cheese Awards were the only ones to take place, as agricultural shows, food festivals and similar events across the country were cancelled due to Covid lockdown restrictions.
Despite having been organised quickly and in an emergency, the 2020 Awards attracted more than 300 entries and were considered a huge success. All profits were donated to support cheesemakers and farming charities.
They were so well respected that it was decided to repeat the awards this year and they had even more entries across eight classes and more than 40 categories.
Nick added: “Everyone who put their all into organising this event both last year and in spring 2021 deserves praise for their professionalism and for the way they have helped raise awareness of some fantastic British cheeses.
“The virtual format of the awards has been so well received that the industry is likely to continue with them even when we are hopefully able to put the pandemic crisis behind us.”
South Caernarfon Creameries was founded more than 80 years ago in 1938 and is still based on its original site near Chwilog on the Llŷn Peninsula, though it has been extended and modernised extensively in recent years.
The dairy plans to increase production over the next three years from its current level of 17,000 tons of cheese a year to 23,000 tons and the growth is projected to increase demand for Welsh milk, from the current level of 150 million litres to more than 200 million litres a year as turnover ramps up.
The co-operative produces all its cheeses and butters using milk from its 137 farmer members across North and Mid Wales.