Country Cheeses of Topsham and the Booths supermarket in Clitheroe have been named the UK's best cheese shops. The stores are the national winners of the prestigious 2001 Retail Cheese Awards sponsored by Dairy Crest and The Grocer. The awards, now in their fifteenth year, are designed to highlight the importance of an effective cheese display in the delicounter to a store's bottom line. They also aim to encourage greater product knowledge among staff. The Country Cheeses outlet in Topsham has been open for only four months. The judging panel was particularly impressed by its range, the superb way in which cheese was merchandised and the detailed knowledge of the store's staff. That helped Country Cheeses beat off stiff competition from regional winners Corbridge Larder of Corbridge and Wycherley's Fine Foods of Newport to win the category for specialist independent retailers. Gary and Elise Jungheim ­ who won a regional award last year with their store in Tavistock ­ said they couldn't believe their luck at winning the national prize. Gary, who promised his staff a big party on his return to the business, said: "It just shows that real cheese is the business." In the multiple retailer category, the regional winners were Booths, Morrisons of Warrington and Tesco of Shepton Mallet, a regional winner last year. Again there was little to separate the excellent stores. The judges were impressed by their strong ranges and colourful displays of cheese. But it was the knowledge and enthusiasm of the assistant behind the counter at Booths that most impressed the judges. Only six months into her job, she was able to answer all the questions posed by our judges ­ a sign of the excellent staff training at Booths, they said. Booths' marketing manager Michael Lough said: "We are bowled over. This is testimony to the strength of our buying team, our training and our staff." The regional winners receive a cheque for £500, while the national winners receive a cash prize of £2,500 plus Dairy Crest cheese worth £1,000. All the winners received commemorative plaques at a ceremony at London's Café Royal from Mark Allen, md of Dairy Crest's cheese business, and Julian Hunt, deputy editor of The Grocer. Allen said: "We are very proud of our association with The Grocer and the Retail Cheese Awards. As the number one supplier of cheese in the UK we are committed to all projects that help market growth." {{NEWS }}