The six month matured Huguenot cheese from Dalewood Fromage, a cheesery in the heart of the Cape Winelands, was last night (24 April) crowned as the 2013 Dairy Product of the Year, having trounced some 800 products entered by 69 artisan and commercial producers. Twelve exceptional dairy products that earned the most coveted Qualité mark of excellence joined this winning cheese on the podium during the DuPont Qualité Awards Dinner of the SA Dairy Championships. An additional 95 products were lauded as SA Champions.
“The SA Dairy Championships is South Africa’s oldest and most authoritative competition where the country’s large variety of dairy products pits themselves against their rivals,” says Johan Ehlers, CEO of Agri-Expo, the agricultural society that has been organising this competition for the past 179 years. “Consumers and food experts are quite familiar with the black and gold Qualité symbol, SA’s only symbol of dairy excellence.” Products, in categories for butter, cheese, cottage cheese, yoghurt, flavoured milk, dairy dips, ice cream and dairy desserts were tried and tested by a team of 59 seasoned dairy specialists and leading food editors and writers.
According to Kobus Mulder, cheese consultant and the main judge, raw milk cheese was for the first time judged in a separate class. “Especially artisan cheeseries are increasingly experimenting with the creation of raw milk cheese,” he explains. “The taste of raw milk cheese is more intense and ardent cheese lovers really appreciate this product.”
The formidable team of judges agrees: the variety and quality of products are still increasing. “Consumers’ expectations in terms of quality grow as their taste for cheese and their knowledge develops. Cheese makers, in turn, realise that a wide variety alone cannot account for increased sales; rather quality plays the decisive role,” says Kobus Mulder.
The Huguenot cheese, the largest wheel of cheese manufactured in South Africa, is a semi hard, brushed rind cheese that is slowly matured for at least six months. Although the flavour is intense with nutty nuances, consumers enjoy this product as part of a cheese board or in a dish.
The winning cheese with its unique flavour and texture was developed in 2003 by Rob Visser. “If this cheese should be available in the Haute Savoie region of France, those discerning cheese experts would appreciate it no end,” says Mulder.
The high quality milk from the farm’s own Jersey herd, which are not treated with growth or milk enhancing hormones, forms an integral part of Dalewood Fromage’s winning recipe.
Cheese lovers are invited to taste some of these winners at the 2013 SA Cheese Festival from 26 – 28 April at Sandringham outside Stellenbosch. Contact Agri-Expo for more information about the SA Championships and the SA Cheese Festival at 021 975 4440or visit www.cheesesa.co.za and www.cheesefestival.co.za.