Klein River Cheesery has been named the winner of the third annual Cheese Maker’s Challenge with their Oak Smoked Stanford, a cheese inspired by a study tour in France and named after the cheesery’s local village in the Western Cape near Hermanus.

Woolworths, known as the home of award-winning cheese, introduced the Cheese Maker’s Challenge in 2011 to encourage small, local cheeseries to create new and exciting cheeses that would appeal to South African cheese lovers.

Klein River, a small, family-run business owned by Riaan and Shelley Lourens and their daughter, Sandy, has been making Woolworths Gruyere for the past dozen years. The milk for their cheeses – a combination of Jersey, Friesland and Ayrshire – comes from three neighbouring farms where the herds graze on the valley’s fertile pastures.

Cheese maker, Jacko van Beulen, developed this stunning hard cheese, which is matured for three to four months and cold smoked using the old-fashioned technique of controlling the temperature and draft by hand. The addition of shavings from oak wine barrels helps give Oak Smoked Stanford its unique flavour.

This year’s entries faced a tough panel of judges that included Peter Templehoff (Chef at the Greenhouse), Abigail Donnelly (Taste Food Editor), Clare Mack (Spill Editor) and Master Chef South Africa winner Kamini Pather. Oak Smoked Stanford emerged the winner and will be available exclusively at selected Woolworths stores from mid-January 2014.

“We’re tremendously excited by the opportunity the Cheese Maker’s Challenge gives us to support small, artisanal cheeseries and to give them national exposure,” says Woolworths MD of Foods, Zyda Rylands. “Not only does it allow us to add some amazing, innovative flavour offerings to our more than 130 different cheeses – including more than 70 that have won at least one award – it allows us to work more closely with these small producers and help them grow their businesses.”