Portobello champ

Portobello cheese SA’s top dairy product for 2012

Rhodes Food Group can take a deserved bow – its Portobello Franschhoek Angelot, a washed-rind cheese, has been crowned as the 2012 Dairy Product of the Year. In Agri-Expo’s annual dairy championships, 26 excellent dairy products were awarded the coveted Qualité mark of excellence, and 90 dairy products were lauded SA Champions.

The awards were made at the recent DuPont Qualité Awards Dinner. Judging on the number, quality and style of entries, it is safe to say that the cheese renaissance continues apace in South Africa.

SA Dairy Product of the Year

Pitted against more than 780 entries in categories including cheese, butter, cottage cheese, yoghurt, flavoured milk, dairy dips, ice cream and dairy dessert, the Portobello Franschhoek Angelot won the favour of the 40 judges.

This washed-rind cheese is made from Ayrshire milk and is one of the more difficult cheeses to make and perfect.

“Although SA consumers, including the judges, are increasingly braving the more exciting types of cheese, the fact that such an extremely strong, and even pungent cheese, could entice the whole group of judges to award it such high marks, must mean that it is an exceptional cheese,” says Kobus Mulder, chief judge of the Championships.

A washed-rind cheese ripens from the surface inward which means that the fermentation process as well as the metabolism of fat and protein must be managed extremely well by the cheese maker. The judges agreed this cheese can compete with the best from France.

The process of washing the rind as it matures, changes the firm young cheese into one with a soft and supple texture and orange coloured rind. With age, the rind becomes sticky and reddish while the aroma becomes earthier. The paradox of a powerful aromatic rind and milder flavour is responsible for a veritable explosion in the mouth.

Qualité winners

A select 26 dairy products received the Qualité Award – South Africa’s only officially acknowledged symbol of outstanding dairy quality – during this year’s DuPont Qualité Awards Dinner.

No less than six Qualité Awards paid homage to Parmalat’s dairy prowess: Simonsberg Matured Cheddar, Woolworths Farmhouse Cheddar, Parmalat Extra Matured Cheddar, Woolworths Vintage Cheddar, Parmalat Vintage Cheddar and Simonsberg Traditional Cream Cheese.

Their closest rival was Clover SA with three Qualité Awards; while DairyBelle, de Pekelaar Kaas, Lancewood Holdings, Rhodes Food Group and Van der Poel Kaas each won two Qualité Awards.

Other Qualité winners include Anysbos, Fairview Cheese Company, Goat Peter, La Montanara, Lausanne Dairies, Marcel’s Frozen Yogurt and Puglia Cheese.

SA Champion dairy products

Ninety superb dairy products were honoured by being named SA Champions. Parmalat lead with 11 champions, Lancewood Holdings followed closely on their heels with nine, and DairyBelle secured seven champions. Belnori Boutique Cheesery, Clover SA and Fairfield Dairy tied with six each. Fairview Cheese Company, Fair Cape Dairies and Rhodes Food Group have each five champion products.

Close to 790 entries

“For large and boutique manufacturers this competition offers the ideal platform to benchmark their wares against those of their competitors,” says Johan Ehlers, CEO of Agri-Expo, organizer of the SA Dairy Championships.

“Winning such a prestigious award is invaluable in terms of gaining exposure for a company and product.” The SA Dairy Championships are the country’s largest dairy competition and Agri-Expo has been presenting it since 1834.

According to Kobus Mulder a rise in the quality of goat’s milk products can be seen, and especially goat’s milk yoghurt can compete against the best cow’s milk yoghurts on the market. “Producers are realising that the consumer’s taste and preferences are being refined and that they now increasingly expect products of higher quality,” he says. “Aged and washed-rind cheeses are also gaining on the milder, more traditional products – pointing to a more developed consumer taste.

Ulf Mortensen, a cheese developer from Denmark, joined the local team for the judging process. “I was impressed with the large number of entries and the overall standard of the cheeses. Most examples of very high quality were within the Cheddar segment, especially the vintage (1+ year) category,” he says.

For further details about the SA Diary Championships visit www.cheesesa.co.za.