After a year on hiatus, the World Cheese Awards returned for 2021.
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Our planet has a new best cheese — at least according to the 33rd World Cheese Awards held as part of this week's ongoing International Cheese Festival taking place in Oviedo, Spain.

Olavidia, a soft goat's cheese from the Spanish producer Quesos y Besos (Cheeses and Kisses), topped the list of 4,079 entries from 45 countries to claim the coveted title of "best cheese in the world" which hasn't been awarded since 2019 due to COVID-19.

World Champion Cheese
Credit: Michael Lane / Guild of Fine Food

"We are a small humble cheesemaker in Jaen," Silvia Pelaez, head cheesmaker of the six-employee company officially called Lacteos Romero Pelaez, said according to CNN. Jean is located in Spain about 500 miles south of where the awards took place.

"We've been making cheese for less than five years, so we never imagined we could win the world's biggest prize in cheese so soon," she said after the victory. "Everything we do is inspired by our love for our family, including the name of the business itself, Quesos y Besos, so this is such a special moment for us. We've made it our mission to encapsulate the essence of our family in all of our cheeses, so to have such recognition from the World Cheese Awards judges is an incredible achievement and truly overwhelming."

Olavidia takes the torch from Rogue River Blue which was the first American cheese to claim the title when the awards were last held in Bergamo, Italy in 2019.

As for this year's winner, British judge Jason Hinds billed the goat's cheese — which was produced in 2017 — as "unlike anything I've seen before." He continued, "Its appearance is so original and it didn't let me down. It's unctuous, seductive, pillowy, warm and comforting." Organizers explained that the cheese was "matured with Penicillium Candidum and a layer of olive stone ash running through its middle," explaining the product's distinct black stripe.

And if you don't think a cheese competition can be exciting, CNN explains otherwise: This event had a dramatic finish. For the final round of judging, 16 judges are all assigned a single cheese to support. After presenting that cheese's attributes, all 16 judges then taste it and then raise a card showing their score from one to ten. These votes happen one at a time, and Olavidia was the final cheese to be discussed. Its 103 points made for a last-minute victory, surprising the previous leader (and therefore second-place cheese) Fromagerie Berthaut, a soft French cheese washed with the spirit Marc de Bourgogne that received 98 points.

"As the World Cheese Awards was founded over three decades ago to showcase the work of small artisan cheesemakers, it gives me immense pleasure to see a tiny family-run cheesemaking business taking top honors once again," John Farrand, managing director of the Guild of Fine Food, organizers of the World Cheese Awards, stated. "It's an incredible feat to stand out in a field of over 4,000 cheeses from every corner of the world, but Quesos y Besos' Olavidia clearly had everything; delivering an exceptional appearance, aroma, texture and flavor, along with bags of originality."