The British cheese that left the French feeling blue

Forget Camembert or Roquefort – Cornwall can now lay claim to the tastiest truckle on the planet. Quite right too, says Christopher Hirst

The producers of Roquefort and Époisses de Bourgogne may view it as infernal rind but the world's best cheese comes from England. Cornish Blue, made in Liskeard by Philip and Carol Stansfield, nosed ahead of 2,600 entries from 26 countries to win this year's World Cheese Awards.

This cows' milk cheese has a freshness that is a world away from the briny tang of Roquefort or the aged complexity of Stilton. Creamy and young, it is a wholly different approach to blue cheese.

Of course, the great classics will retain their place on the cheeseboard, but Britain's willingness to accept lactic innovation means they have been joined by a host of newcomers. According to Juliet Harbutt, organiser of the World Cheese Awards, we now have a choice of 700 homegrown cheeses while the French have only 600 fromages to savour. If this means we are heading for anarchy, in line with de Gaulle's famous dictum about the ungovernability of a country that produces many different kinds of cheese, it seems a small price to pay.

Our fabulous curds are a major pleasure of modern Britain. I find myself increasingly sniffing out our native cheeses from the tempting array of wedges, chunks and rounds in supermarkets and specialist shops.

Partly due to this country's adventurous palate and partly due to the niggardly return on fresh milk, artisan cheese-making is a bright spot amid the prevailing gloom of agribusiness.

The sharp, creamy tang of traditional Stiltons such as Colston Bassett has been challenged by Stilchilton, a Stilton-type cheese but made from unpasteurised milk. The result is enjoyably different – a degree or two milder (not always a bad thing in cheese) but with greater finesse. "Would it put people off if I said it was a girlie Stilton?" inquired my wife.

The monumental Cheddars such as Montgomery and Keen's Farm that are the best hard cheeses not only in Britain but the world have been joined by Lincolnshire Poacher, a distinguished wedge that does a tangy dance on the palate. Another hard-won triumph is Berkswell. Made in the eponymous Warwickshire village, this cheese delivers a surprise within its gnarled, ancient rind. Resonant and complex, there is a suggestion of coconut.

Cornish blue is only one of a host of new cheeses that have benefited from introduction of the penicillin culture. Yorkshire Blue is a mild, creamy pleasure that asserts itself without a hint of aggression. Blue Monday from Alex James, an Independent columnist, World Cheese Awards judge, and probably the only celebrity cheesemaker, has been likened to "a great Gorgonzola" by restaurateur and food writer Mark Hix. Made from unpasteurised milk in Lincolnshire, Cote Hill Blue is a butter-rich cheese with the texture of Camembert but enlivened with little blue veins.

An utterly different cheese of ovine provenance is Swallet from Cumbia. With a Camembert-style ooziness, it tastes sweet, light and floral. Made only between spring and autumn, it is summer in cheese form. The nettle-wrapped revival known as Cornish Yarg achieves a miraculous multi-layered depth of flavour for a fresh cheese. Despite being rind-washed, which often imparts a suggestion of sweaty socks, Stinking Bishop from Gloucestershire is a misnomer: it is grassy, fresh and pleasant.

A final mention should go to last year's winner at the World Cheese Awards, which by some weird coincidence also came from Britain. Made at the High Weald Dairy in West Sussex, St Giles has the orange rind of the French favourite St Paulin but tastes miles better. Its delicious buttery flavour has a delectable hint of fruit.

If this cheesy paean prompts you to explore fragrant newcomers, you will have a treat in store, but may I offer a word of warning? A piece of cheese is an affordable luxury even in the chilly depths of recession, but watch your step when faced with the nigh-on irresistible temptation offered by variety. When I recently dispatched my wife to buy samples of British cheeses for an article in another publication, I was surprised to receive a bill for £141.54 for 21 chunks. Only those with a good wedge in their pocket should go mad at the cheese counter.

Hirst's best of British

Blue Stilton

A truly stupendous experience. Mellow, rich, complex, satisfying – even the French love it.


The best cheese in the world. Nutty, great with biscuits or bread, its character hints at its farm origins.

Duckett's Caerphilly

Despite its light texture, it offers a range of flavours from citric to leafy with a lovely aftertaste.

Hawes Wensleydale

A subtle classic with an addictive appeal that has enjoyed a revival in recent years. The rival called Richard III is appropriately characterful.

Kirkham's Lancashire

The matured splendidly known as "Tasty" is a wonderful sandwich cheese, it may be even better when grilled to a golden tan in a Welsh Rabbit.

voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
newsJohn Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Bey can do it: Beyoncé re-enacts Rosie the Riveter's pose
newsRosie the Riveter started out as an American wartime poster girl and has become a feminist pin-up. With Beyoncé channeling her look, Gillian Orr tells her story
Life and Style
Donna and Paul Wheatley at their wedding
healthShould emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
voicesSiobhan Norton on why she eventually changed her mind
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

    Take a good look while you can

    How climate change could wipe out this seal
    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?

    Some couples are allowed emergency hospital weddings, others are denied the right. Kate Hilpern reports on the growing case for a compassionate cutting of the red tape
    Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

    Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

    Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

    John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
    The 10 best pedicure products

    Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

    Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit