The Affineur of the Year Contest in London

Hi there! I’m so excited to tell you about my recent trip to London. One of the highlights of my trip was attending an “affinage” contest, The Affineur of the Year. It was an event where experts in cheese aging were competing. I must say, I’ve never seen anything like it before!

Most of the contestants were British cheesemakers, which is understandable. The contest was simple enough: identical fresh cheeses, prepared in the same “cauldron” at the same time, were handed out to different contestants. They had complete control over what they did with the cheese to achieve their ideal result. What really blew me away was the incredible professional flexibility and imagination displayed by the participants. It resulted in surprisingly varied outcomes, which was just amazing to witness. The soft cheese category was particularly exciting; some affineurs washed the rinds (I especially liked the cheese washed with porter, it was a real surprise!), while others matured it into something like brie with bloomy rinds. Different ideas and approaches led to different results, and it was fascinating to see the creativity at work.

There were two other groups of competing cheeses: cheddar and blue cheese. As the judges noted, in these categories, the results were closer to each other, and it was really the slightest details and nuances in taste and flavor that played their role. Congrats to the winners in these groups, you can see them all in the photos.

If you’re interested, you can find more information about the contest on the organizers’ website. But what can’t be conveyed in texts or photos is the special atmosphere of the festival. I personally enjoyed the incredible ambiance of the event. Even though most of the attendees were competitors or friends and families of competitors, there was still a very friendly and warm atmosphere among the participants. Our English-speaking neighbors really know how to create a welcoming environment, probably better than anyone else (in my opinion). Even though I wasn’t at last year’s contest, I heard that this year’s level of participation and work submitted had significantly increased. Each participant showed their own individuality and achieved great results, which was impressive.

I want to give a special thanks to the organizers and the judges for their work. Most of it remained behind the scenes, but it was definitely appreciated. I would love to see something similar in France since the very idea of affinage and the word “affineur” are French! It turns out that our English-speaking colleagues pay more attention and respect to the refining aspects. France, we need to catch up!

Overall, my trip to London was a wonderful experience, and attending the affinity contest was definitely a highlight. I learned some more about cheese-making and the creative process behind it. If you ever have the chance to attend something like this, I highly recommend it. It’s truly a unique and unforgettable experience.

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