The ESNEKI trade fair has once again turned Tolosa into the world’s hotspot for cheese and dairy producers – and cheese and dairy lovers. Sponsored by the Tolosa Town Council, the Eliker Quality Food Centre, HAZI, the Basque Government, the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa, Tolomendi and Leartiker Esneki Zentroa, the special ESNEKI trade fair is back with a bang for its second edition, deepening its roots and attracting the public’s attention.
Over the first weekend in November, visitors were able to discover and taste a wide range of cheeses and dairy products produced in the Basque Country. On Friday, industry professionals met at the conference held at the Beotibar fronton court in Tolosa. On Saturday, talks turned into tastings at the special market set up in the city centre.
A total of 85 cheeses and dairy products were entered in the second edition of the Basque Country Cheese and Dairy Products Championship. This major event was judged by a jury of 30 people from the culinary world and a number of different players from the cheese and dairy sector.
The championship was divided into eight categories (fresh cheeses, dairy cheeses, soft cheeses, blue cheeses, cured cow’s cheeses, cured goat’s cheeses, cured sheep’s cheeses and yoghurts), with two further sub-categories in each: dairy products made from milk produced by the company itself, and dairy products made from milk purchased from third parties. From among the winners in each category, the jury held a second tasting to choose the winner of the Best in Show category.
The cheese from the category of goat’s cheese LARRUZ Ahuntz Gazta from Muniozguren de Markina Xemein was the winner of this top prize for the best cheese in the Basque Country. Iban Muniozguren was delighted and moved when he collected the trophy, the diploma and the txapela (a Basque-style beret), mentioning his brother Gorka, who produces these cheeses with him. “This prize, as well as helping sales, is also a recognition”, he says. “It will help goat’s cheeses take their rightful place in the dairy sector”.
A host of other interesting and successful activities were held at ESNEKI over the two days, in addition to the fair and the competitions. These included everything from educational experiences for families and a talk and tasting session on “Cheese, Culture and Gastronomy” given by Henri Bilé, Alain Torres and Roberto Ruiz to the 14th Friesian Contest, a meeting for industry professionals, and guided tastings.
The Leartiker Dairy Centre was in charge of organising and guiding the last two of these activities.
Sectorial meeting and guided tasting
On Friday, Leartiker Dairy Centre hosted the sectorial meeting for professionals at the Beotibar fronton court, an event that was a resounding success in its first edition last year that we knew we had to repeat. The meeting featured presentations of real benchmark cases in the cheese industry by top professionals including Xuso Mazaira (Airas Moniz, Lugo), Silvia Peláez (Quesos y Besos, Jaén) and Salvador Maura (Mas d’Eroles, Lleida). Following the presentations, Natalia Lobeto shared the tireless efforts that her mother, Marigel Álvarez, put in to revive Quesos Casín. After a short break, the event concluded with a fascinating round table discussion involving several cheesemakers from the Basque Country.
The following day, on Saturday, it was time for the ‘Basque Country Cheese Board’ activity, a guided tasting of a wide variety of cheeses produced in the Basque Country. These workshops have been extremely successful in the two editions of ESNEKI that we have organised, and this year’s was no exception: tickets were sold out days in advance.
The Tolosa Town Councillor for Trade, Tourism and Trade Fairs, Aitor Agirresarobe, said that this second edition was “successful”. “For the second time we have seen the power of this event, which is organised in collaboration with different stakeholders. The dairy sector also responded, and since one of the goals of these initiatives is to celebrate the work of cheese and dairy producers in the Basque Country, we are thrilled with the result. In short, cheese, dairy products and milk form the basis of our diet, and we need to promote them to ensure that this remains the case. And if we can do that while having fun, even better”, explained Agirresarobe.
The Leartiker Dairy Centre also shares this view and would like to thank ESNEKI and all those who participated in the Basque Country Cheese and Dairy Trade Fair. “The variety of cheeses and dairy products that our region has to offer is growing and is increasingly well known, which is why this initiative aims to promote and offer a wide range of dairy products and to showcase the outstanding work of dairy farmers.”
Thank you very much to Tolosa Town Council, the Eliker Quality Food Centre, HAZI, the Basque Government, the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa and Tolomendi. It has been a pleasure to collaborate with all of you in the organization of such a wornderful event.