TORONTO -- Le Baluchon, a cheese from Quebec, has been named cheese of the year in the inaugural Canadian Cheese Awards.

The cheese, from Fromagerie FX Pichet in Sainte-Anne-de-la-Perade, Que., won in the competition, which featured 76 producers from across the country submitting 291 cheeses for judging.

Le Baluchon was also named best in the semi-soft cheese and organic categories.

The awards were handed out Monday at the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto.

It is the first cheese competition in Canada open to all milks used in cheesemaking -- cow, goat, sheep and water buffalo -- with only pure natural cheese accepted for judging. No artificial colours, flavours, preservatives or modified milk ingredients were permitted to be used.

Arthur Hill, chair and professor in food science and an internationally recognized authority in cheese technology, headed the judging, which took place at the University of Guelph's department of food science.

The awards were produced by the annual artisan cheese show the Great Canadian Cheese Festival, held annually in June in Ontario's Prince Edward County near Belleville. Georgs Kolesnikovs, the festival's founder and director, is awards chairman.