English cave-aged cheddar declared 'supreme' winner in international cheese competition

An aged cheddar matured deep in the heart of ancient British caves beat out thousands of other competitors to be crowned the Supreme Champion at an international cheese competition in England this week.

A panel of 150 judges gave top marks to Ford Farms Cave Aged Cheddar from April 2010, which beat out 3,700 competitors at the International Cheese Awards in Nantwich, Cheshire.

The competition is one of the oldest of its kind and celebrated its 114th year, attracting cheese makers from 26 countries and 30,000 visitors.

The champion cheese from Dorset, meanwhile, is produced by following the 16th century practice of aging cheese in cool, dank caves - an art form revived by Ford Farms five years ago.

The constant temperature of neighboring Wookey Hole Caves, a natural limestone cave carved into the British hillside, provides the ideal setting for maturing cheese. The temperature remains steady at 11 °C (52 F).

The cheddar is made with farm-fresh milk from local cows and then wrapped in cheese cloth. It's then taken deep into the heart of the caves and left to mature for six months, during which time it's regularly tested.

The cheese maker credits the caves' constant humidity and year-round temperature for giving the cheese a distinctive earthy flavor.

Cheese show chairman Richard Paul called the product a "truly exceptional cheese."

Other notable mentions this year were the Long Clawson Dairy Stilton, and a ULN Brie.

Supermarket chain Asda was given the Supreme Retailer Award for its stock of cheeses.

Last year's Supreme Champion went to an organic parmesan made in the south of Milan, Italy by Ferrari Dairy.

Ford Farm Wookey Hole Cave Aged Cheddar is available across the UK from the deli counter in Tesco, Sainsbury's and Waitrose and selected independent retailers across the country.