Share, taste, understand, write … repeat at the Great Taste awards

Thousands of artisan food and drink products are entered into the annual Great Taste awards with the hope that the skill, love and passion of their producers will shine through and earn them one, two or three of the coveted award stars. Organised by the family-owned Guild of Fine Food, you may have seen the products stamped with a the Great Taste circular award, black with gold and white script and one, two or three stars on the shelves farm shops, delis and supermarkets. Earlier this year I was part of the judging team, an amazing experience of tasting salami, cake, roast chicken, kombucha, olive oil, or perhaps a chocolate cookie – all tasted in no particular order. All products are tasted blind, without knowing the producer’s name or company.

Ready for tasting (c) Guild of Fine Food

Here are six examples of what the judges thought about various products submitted for reckoning. These were all awarded stars. Producers are given sight of the comments which hopefully gives some potential customer insight into how their products taste and whether some tweaking of recipes might be needed to move up to star ladder.

Jiddlers Tipple, Pale Ale, 2 stars

Lovely tropical flavours, luxurious in the mouth, very thick mouthfeel for a session-able beer. Frutiy and refreshing, a lovely example of a session pale. There is complexity of flavour here and a roundness to the flavour profile that is unusually well constructed. The delicate hoppy finish is perfectly balance.

A very drinkable light golden session pale ale with good conditioning. Citrus hoppy aromaas are complement by a subtle, creamy, long-lasting flavour.

Mount Mayon Pili Nuts, Himalayan Sea Salt 28g, 2 stars

Fresh and carefully produced, a delicious product. Beautifully presented and handled Pili nuts. The texture is magical, the soft bite developing into a smooth paste in the mouth. The flavour level and texture are very reminiscent of a to quality Macadamia. The buttery smoothness and the well judged salt make for an extremely high-class snack.

Islands Chocolate Midnight Mover 75%, 1 star

Neat dark squares with a gentle snap. The chocolate took time to melt before the promised fruity notes developed and the lingering flavour was that of dried fruit. There was a good overall balance to the bar. Deep cocoa aroma and a slight reddish hue. This bar of chocolate has big flavour and natural sweetness. The flavour of tropical fruit come to mind, with a bright citrus acidity which then changes into rum soaked raisin when warmed up on the palate. Quite delicious for a 75% and easy to eat.

The following three charcuterie were made by Tempus Charcuterie, an artisan producer and co-owned by Dhruv Baker, and winner of BBC’s Master

House salami, 2 stars

A thinly-sliced salami with a strong, lively tang of fermented meat and a sweet finish on the palate that offers a porky punch yet lets the delicacy of the meat shine through. The black peppercorns are distinct yet evenly dispersed, and there are just enough to offer an occasional hit of pepper. Even dispersal of flavoursome fat too.

Generous slices of bright salami, marbled with fat throughout. This pepper is also very visible. There is a peppery warm flavour with a balanced sweetness which has evolved over its five months of ageing. The texture of the pork is good, with a subtle melt in the mouth eating experience, making this salami a fine example of British charcuterie.

Smoked coppa, 1 star

A very attractive piece of charcuterie with plentiful seams of fat in dark red meat. It has a moderately intense smokiness. The texture is excellent, the fat doing a good job of lubricating the lean. the smoke gives a powerful hit in the mouth, which rather disguises the spices on the exteriour of the charcuterie, and is the dominant flavour on the aftertaste. It comes close to being an excellent product but for a slightly unpleasant bitterness which comes through right at the end.

A well marbled coppa which is moist, silky and melts int he mouth. The smoke is prominent on the nose but gives a subtle well-balance taste.

Truffle salami, 1 star

A beautifully crafted salami, evenly cured throughout its wide gauge, with a great distribuiton of fat and generous sprinkling of truffle. We loved the deep, almost gamey pork notes here, balanced by the sweetness and acidity of the ferment. The drying has been perfectly pitched the moistness on the palate is delightful, alongside a sound depth of flavour from the lean meat. If any truffle extract has been used it’s so judicious as to be imperceptible – the truffle here is marked in impact, but clean and almost sweet-seeming. There’s a delightful persistence on the palate, but again the finish is sweet and clean despite (or thanks to!) the well-judged salinity.

Facts and figures about Great Taste Awards 2021

  • Established in 1994, Great Taste is organised by the Guild of Fine Food and is the world’s largest, longest standing and most respected food accreditation scheme for artisan and speciality food producers
  • 14,113 different products were entered in 2021 from 108 countries
  • 355 judges blind-tasted this year’s entries, including; Joanna Blythman, investigative journalist and food writer; cook, writer, stylist and voice of modern vegetarian cooking, Anna Jone; author, Olia Hercules; Kenny Tutt, MasterChef 2018 champion and restaurateur; food writer and cook, Xanthe Clay; presenter, author and tutor, Steven Lamb; baker and author, Martha Collison; and Kavi Thakrar from Dishoom, as well as food buyers from Selfridges, Fortnum & Mason and Partridges
  • Socially distanced judging took place over 86 days at four venues, including Guild HQ in Gillingham, Dorset and the Guild of Fine Food’s London home, No. 42 Southwark Street, SE1
  • 4,027 awarded a Great Taste 1-star – A food that delivers fantastic flavour. Approximately 30% of entries will achieve this rating each year
  • 1,138 awarded a Great Taste 2-star – Above and beyond delicious – less than 10% of entries will achieve this rating
  • 218 awarded a Great Taste 3-star – Extraordinarily tasty foods – less than 2% of products are awarded a 3-star each year – don’t leave the shop without buying it!
Blind tasting olive oil (c) Guild of Fine Food

Click Guild of Fine Food for more information.

Bruce McMichael

Food writing, discovering food stories, meeting producers, chefs and food enthusiasts are all part of desire to inspire, inform my readers and fellow food lovers. I am a freelance writer, journalist and published author focusing on the international world of food and drink, culture and travel. In 2019 I graduated from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy with a Masters in Food Culture, Communication and Marketing. I am now a visiting Professor at the university teaching Food & Drink Writing. Based in London I travel widely, particularly across western Europe. I have chaired many conferences and meetings, spoken at conferences and events and often appear on radio and TV talking most about food, the business of food and being an entrepreneur. In 2017 I won an episode of the ITV (the UK-based national television channel) cooking competition show, 'Gordon Ramsay's Culinary Genius'. I took my children on holiday to Sicily with the prize money. As an experienced farmers' market manager and operator of a small marmalade/ preserves company, I am very familiar with the issues surrounding local food, farming, enterprise and the environment.

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