Lincolnshire soft cheese wins accolade at national competition

Mary and Michael at the Great British Cheese awards

Farmers who make Lincolnshire’s only soft cheese are poised to be busier than ever in the run-up to Christmas – after celebrating success in a national competition.

Michael and Mary Davenport of Cote Hill Cheese can expect their soft-blue veined Cote Hill Blue cheese to be in even bigger demand after it was named runner-up in the Great British Cheese Awards’ artisan cheese category.

Cote Hill Blue is one of four cheeses made by the busy family from Osgodby, near Market Rasen, and it has proved to be a hot favourite with a growing number of cheese lovers, although the farm’s other varieties, Cote Hill Yellow, Red and Lindum are also much loved.

However, it was an extremely proud moment when Michael and Mary were invited to the Great British Cheese Awards in the elegant surroundings of The Gilbert Scott restaurant and bar within London’s St Pancras Renaissance Hotel.

Not only was it thrilling to, once again, be showcasing Lincolnshire produce, the couple were particularly delighted that it was the public who had helped them to do so well in the competition.

Cote Hill Blue, a soft creamy variety, is totally produced at the Davenports’ farm near Market Rasen, where the family keep 80 British Friesian and Holstein cattle.

They are extremely proud to have full control of the cheesemaking process, right from the delivery of the morning milk through to the maturing and wrapping of their cheeses.

And the wider distribution of Cote Hill Blue, to pubs, restaurants and other outlets around the country, has boosted its popularity.

“It was fantastic to do so well in the awards.  What is so very special about this competition is that the finalists are decided based on what members of the public think,” said Michael.

“People are invited to vote for their favourite cheeses and those which receive the most votes form a shortlist of cheeses.  These are judged by food industry experts before the winners are announced across a variety of categories.

“Our cheese made it through to the final seven in the artisan cheese category and we were just pipped to the top prize by Fen Farm Dairy in Bungay.

“Winning recognition in this prestigious competition, which is now in its second year means our cheese is being seen as amongst the cream of the crop when it comes to the best of British produce made and distributed by independent cheesemakers and distributors.”

This year’s competition attracted a record 9,000 voters.

Mary said: “Our blue cheese is our most popular.  It currently accounts for two-thirds of our cheese production.  It has a soft creamy texture and a buttery sweetness. It can be enjoyed on its own, but it also adds a unique twist to cooked dishes.”

Cote Hill has been home to the Davenport family for 50 years, where they have always milked cows and have a herd of 80 cattle.

Falling liquid milk prices prompted the family to explore cheese making in 2004 and Michael learned the skills on a course at Nantwich Agriculture College.

Thankfully, cheese lovers can look forward to being able to tuck into their favourite cheese well into the future.

Today two of Michael and Mary’s four sons, Joe and Ross – along with Joe’s wife Laura – also play their part, and even Joe and Laura’s daughter Edith (three) has been known to get in on the act. Last year Edith appeared on CBeebies making cheese with her dad and Granny Mary.

“Joe helps with me with the cheesemaking process, and little Edith loves to see what her daddy is up to, while Ross helps Michael to look after the cattle and the farming side of the business,” said Mary.

Cote Hill Cheese has many awards under its belt.  Its highly-popular Cote Hill Blue has won Gold Medals at the British Cheese Awards, Nantwich International Cheese Show and The Great Yorkshire Show, as well as a Great Taste 2-star Gold.

The Great British Cheese Awards were organised by Great British Chefs (the UK’s fastest growing food website) and Peter’s Yard, whose crispbread was named as “the best biscuit for cheese out there.”

Co-founder of Peter’s Yard, Wendy Wilson-Bett said: “We feel this is a fantastic initiative to be involved with, especially as there is such a positive involvement by the public.  We hope these awards will also encourage more people to seek out and buy great British cheese like Cote Hill Blue.”

Undoubtedly the power of social media is raising awareness of artisan and other cheeses.  Great British Chefs and Peter’s Yard are among those using these channels and together they have a reach of more than 1.3 million people!