It’s only been going for four years but the Artisan Cheese Awards is already established as the premier showcase for small producers in the UK.
This year, 420 cheeses were sampled by the judges in the majestic surroundings of Melton’s St Mary’s Church.
We won’t know the results until they are announced on Saturday evening at the annual awards supper.
But organiser Matthew O’Callaghan was clearly impressed by the quality and variety of cheeses entered this year.
He told the Melton Times: “The beauty of our awards is it is totally about artisan cheesemakers rather than the factory-produced cheeses which compete at other awards events.
“We had a very good standard again - the best two were very different cheeses, with one soft and one hard, but they were both outstanding.
“Representatives from all the big UK wholesalers were there so it is a great showcase for everyone who enters.
“We had someone there from Marks and Spencer, for example, and where else would a small cheesemaker get the chance to show off their cheese in front of a buyer for M&S?
“It’s also held in a magnificent setting in the church when most awards are held in a marquee.”
There were a record number of judges taking part this year with 18 categories up for grabs. Class winners receive a £500 prize, trophy and rosette, with the supreme champion scooping £1,000.
Mr O’Callaghan added: “The judges probably tasted about 15 to 20 cheeses.
“We give them lime juice and apples to cleanse the palate between cheeses.”
This year’s entry included 100 cheeses made by producers in Ireland.
Many of those who entered the awards will be selling their cheeses at this weekend’s Artisan Cheese Fair, which is on Saturday and Sunday at Melton Livestock Market.