Grate news! Croatian cheeses scored highly at the recent Global Cheese Awards, with cheeses from Istria and island Pag performing brie-lantly. The prestigious annual awards, which have taken place in the English town of Frome for 160 years, are one of the oldest and best respected within the cheese industry. More than 20,000 visitors attended this year's awards. Coincidentally, Frome is only two letters away from spelling fromage, the French word for cheese.
Špin cheese, which comes from Istria and is owned by Agrolaguna, won two awards for its cheeses. In the category of hard sheep cheese, Sheep Sir Špin won a silver medal, while Gran Istrian was awarded the bronze. Its Sheep Sir Špin is made from the milk of indigenous Istrian sheep and its Gran Istrian is an extra hard cheese which lasts for at least 12 months. The milk used contains no additives and no fats are removed in the production so that the taste of the cheese is subject to the seasonal variations of the pasture. This is the real specialty of Špin cheese.
In the Special Category for sheep's milk cheese, Paški sir from Paška Sirana won a bronze medal. This famous hard cheese has won many awards previously and is produced from a unique breed of small sheep, Paska Ovca, known for their salty milk which comes in small yields. Paški sir is matured for at least 4 months, although can be matured for anything up to one and a half years.
In addition to the awards they won for their hard cheeses, Špin also received a special recommendation from the awards jury for a soft cheese they are pioneering which uses a mixture of sheep and cow's milk. Such recognition proves that the innovative idea was not crackers. You should watch out for this new cheese from Špin as it'll be available in supermarkets soon.
It seems Špin are now replicating internationally their successes at a local level, where they have previously won several awards in domestic competitions. At last year's World Cheese Awards in London, Špin took one gold, one bronze and two silver medals. They are the only Istrian cheese to have won international awards.