The 2019 CÁIS Irish Cheese Awards bestowed 22 cheesy awards celebrating the diverse range of farmhouse cheeses produced around Ireland.

Now in its eighth year, the biennial awards organized by CÁIS, the Association of Irish Farmhouse Cheesemakers, saw over 200 entries from 50 Irish farmhouse cheese producers. A total of 22 awards were given out, including the 'Supreme Champion' which went to Marion Roeleveld of Killeen Farmhouse Cheese.

Sponsored by Ornua, Pallas Foods and Bord Bia, the ceremony gathered members of CÁIS, judges, cheesemakers and members of the public, to celebrate the abundant and diverse range of farmhouse cheeses produced in Ireland. 

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Famous Faces

The competition brought together both artisan and large-scale cheese producers from all over the country, who enjoyed a five-course dinner that incorporated a selection of winning cheeses from the 2017 awards. 

Journalist and broadcaster Helen Carroll was the MC for the evening, while the judging table included a number of well-known personalities such as John McKenna. Other members of the jury included Catherine Fulvio, Ross Lewis, food bloggers Patrick Hanlon and Russell Alford, aka The Gastrogays, Patrick Clément, Head of Culinary at Pallas Foods, and FOOD AND WINE contributor Aoife Carrigy.

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Some of Ireland’s most well-known cheesemakers, such as Coolea Farmhouse Cheese, Durrus Cheese, Bandon Vale, and Ardsallagh Farmhouse Cheese were awarded across multiple categories, as were the Tipperary-based Cashel Farmhouse Cheesemakers, Waterford-based Knockanore, Galway-based Killeen and Dozio’s of Mayo from the West of Ireland.

Judging Process

Each cheese entered was assessed under three key criteria: flavor and aroma, body and texture, and overall appearance of cheese, while packaging and branding were also taken into consideration within the ‘Retailer’ and ‘New Cheesemaker’ categories.

For the first time, the 2019 ceremony introduced a 'Public Vote' and CÁIS appealed to the general public to cast their vote for their favorite Irish farmhouse cheese. More than 1,000 votes were cast, and Macroom-based producer Coolea Farmhouse Cheese was announced as the clear winner, with the Willelms family delighted to accept the award. 

Speaking about the awards, Dan MacSweeney, Bord Bia’s Chairman, said, “While these awards recognize individual excellence, all 68 farmhouse cheesemakers can take an equal share of the credit for the outstanding contribution that the sector, valued at €12 million, has made to the Irish dairy industry, our culinary culture and to local communities.”

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Complete list of 2019 Irish Cheese Awards Gold Medal Winners:

Class 1: Creamery mild cheddar up to 6 months – Aldi Irish Mild White Cheddar produced by Glanbia

Class 2: Creamery mature cheddar over 6 months – SuperValu Signature Taste Vintage Red Cheddar (counter product) produced by Newmarket Creamery

Class 3: Retailer Class (soft, semisoft, flavor added) – SuperValu Signature Tastes Gortnamona produced by Cooleeney Farmhouse Cheese

Class 4: Retailer Class (hard cheese) – Dunnes Stores Simply Better 5-Month Matured Killeen Goats Cheese produced by Killeen Farmhouse Cheese

Class 5: Soft/Fresh Cheese (all milk) – Bluebell Falls Cream Cheese produced by Bluebell Falls

Class 6: Goats Cheese under 2 months – Gurteen Baun Button produced by Galway Goat Farm

Class 7: Goats Cheese over 2 months – Killeen Goat Mature produced by Killeen Farmhouse Cheese

Class 8: Sheep's Cheese – Shepherd's Store produced by Cashel Farmhouse Cheesemakers

Class 9: Bloomy Rind Cheese – NO GOLD WINNER

Class 10: Washed Rind Cheese – Gubbeen produced by Gubbeen Farmhouse Products

Class 11: Blue Cheese – Crozier Blue produced by Cashel Farmhouse Cheesemakers

Class 12: Semi-hard cheese aged under 6 months – Dunmanus produced by Durrus Cheese

Class 13: Semi-hard to hard cheese aged over 6 months – Coolea Mature produced by Coolea Farmhouse Cheese

Class 14: Soft Cheese - Flavour Added – Zing with Apricot & Almond produced by Dozio's of Mayo

Class 15 - Hard Cheese - Flavour added – Coolea Mature Cumin produced by Coolea Farmhouse Cheese

Class 16: Smoked Cheese – Knockanore Oakwood Smoked Cheddar produced by Knockanore Farmhouse Cheese

Class 17: New Cheese (last 2 years) – Barr Rua Alpine Style produced by Dozios of Mayo

Class 18: Best Raw Milk Cheese – Templegall produced by Hegarty Cheese

Class 19: New Cheesemaker since 2016 - Boyne Valley Bán produced by Boyne Valley Farmhouse Cheese

Class 20: Public Vote Winner – Coolea Farmhouse Cheese
CAIS Appreciation Award – Dr Kieran Jordan, Teagasc (retired)
Supreme Champion – Marion Roeleveld, Killeen Farmhouse Cheese

For the complete results, and for information on CÁIS and the Irish Cheese Awards 2019, visit www.irishcheese.ie.

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* Originally published on Food & Wine Ireland.

Cheese glorious cheese: The 2019 CÁIS Irish Cheese Awards Getty Images