World Championship Cheese Contest in Madison, Wisconsin! Last week I had the great pleasure and honor of attending the World Championship Cheese Contest. With over 3,667 entries from around the world, this was such an incredible experience for me to be a part of.
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post in partnership with the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association. All opinions are mine.
The World Championship Cheese Contest®, initiated in 1957, is the largest technical cheese, butter, and yogurt competition in the world. Hosted by the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, cheese makers from around the world submit their quality cheese, butter, yogurt, and dry dairy ingredients to the contest to compete for global recognition. It was incredible for me to see all of the different categories. There were the obvious ones like Cheddar, Aged Two Years or Longer, but also Cottage Cheese and Whey Protein Concentrate. It was fascinating.
The 2020 competition included a record-breaking 3,667 entries! Cheesemakers from 26 nations, including Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine and the United Kingdom, sent their best dairy products for evaluation.
The United States of America was also strongly represented in the international competition, with entries coming from 36 states: including Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.
JUDGES FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD
Entries are evaluated by a team of skilled technical judges from all over the world. Starting from a maximum possible 100 points, deductions are made for various defects found by each judge. Defects are noted in the areas of flavor, body and texture, salt, color, finish, packaging, and other appropriate attributes. A Gold medal, Silver medal and Bronze medal are awarded to the three highest-scoring entries in each class.
It was an honor for me to meet the judges, learn from them and spend time with them as they evaluated, inspected, tasted and scored the cheese from their category.
I had the honor of speaking with Adrian Fowler from Fowler’s Forest Dairies, Ltd. in the U.K and Matt Zimbric from Foremost Farms in Wisconsin. Most of the judges were paired with someone from a different country which I thought was great! I watched as Adrian and Matt looked and inspected everything, even down to the packaging, the color and any defects in color. Obviously, with aged cheddar, the longer it is aged, the more complex and full the flavor will be. I have to say the cheddar we tasted that day was some of the best cheddar I have ever tasted.
The 2020 judging team consists of 55 experienced cheese graders, cheese buyers, dairy science professors, and researchers, hailing from 19 nations and 14 American states.
For more detailed bios on the judges, click here.
It was incredible just to spend time with these cheese experts and learn from them. You could see the passion for what they do and if you think about it, they are the best of the best from around the world, judging and tasting the best of the best from around the world. It was just an honor for me to be there.
Over 3,667 Entries from Around The World
You wouldn’t believe the organization and work force required to put on a contest like this. The judges are supported by more than 100 contest volunteers, known as the B Team, a tribute to Brian Eggebrecht of Welcome Dairy, Inc., who serves as Contest Committee Chairman. The B Team was also comprised of cheese experts and cheese makers and cheesemongers from all over. They were happy to be there, to be a part of this tremendous contest and helping with whatever was needed.
As each entry was evaluated, the B Team would bring out the cheese to the judges and would keep the judges on track and everything moving.
I got to meet Phil and Mary Lindemann of Pine River Cold Pack Cheese. They were the sweetest couple ever and had the most delicious cold pack cheese I have ever tasted. “The Lindemann family has been in the dairy trade in Wisconsin since the 19th century when Herman Lindemann, settled in Liberty Township not far from the current Pine River plant. He emigrated from Prussia in 1870, and established his dairy farm on 155 acres of pristine woodland in 1886.
Philip C. Lindemann incorporated Pine River Pre-Pack independently from his father in 1964. Besides packaging natural cuts of cheese, his new company began making Cold Pack Cheese Food using his own special recipe. Being a Licensed Wisconsin Cheese Grader, he always selected the best cheese for his Cold Pack blends. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, he experimented with innovative flavors and new packaging technology to keep the product fresher and more convenient to use. In 1996, he registered the domain name pineriver.com.
Philip A. Lindemann and Barth M. Lindemann joined the company in the 1970s. In 1983, Pine River became a supplier to the fundraising industry, helping our cheese spreads gain a national presence. Under Philip and Barth’s leadership, Pine River underwent numerous upgrades and expansions, including construction of a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility, allowing the company to double its production. In 2017, Philip and his team, in response to market trends, developed the industry’s first line of Clean Label Cheddar-Based Cheese Spreads. As a Licensed Wisconsin Cheese Grader, Philip continues to oversee the procurement of the finest cheeses and other ingredients that contribute to our award-winning products.”
I believe their Pine River Spicy Beer, Pepper Jack, Aged Asiago and Jalapeño cold pack cheeses all took home awards!
Photo from Pine River Cold Packs’ Instagram
Having lived in Wisconsin for over six years, I’m a little partial when it comes to Wisconsin Cheese. One of the first award winning cheese I fell in love with was Marieke Gouda. I had the great honor of meeting Marieke herself!
Marieke Penterman was born and raised in the Netherlands where she grew up on her parents’ 60 cow dairy farm. This is where her passion for dairy cows and dairy farming began. After getting her Bachelor’s Degree in Dairy Business, Marieke started a career as a farm inspector.
In the meantime, her future husband, Rolf Penterman, immigrated to Thorp, WI and started a 350 cow dairy farm in May 2002. Thorp, with a vast dairy base and farm-friendly people, was an ideal location. Marieke followed Rolf a year later. Once in the United States, she missed the cheese from back home and began researching how to start her own business. Marieke decided to get her Wisconsin Cheesemaking License. She worked with a local cheesemaker and traveled back to her home country where she trained alongside two different cheesemakers throughout the week. There she learned how to make authentic Dutch Gouda cheese.
US Grand Champion 2013
Just four months after Marieke crafted her first batch of Gouda in November 2006, she captured a gold award at the US Champion Cheese Contest in 2007. Dozens of awards followed including the United States Grand Champion in 2013. And placing in the Top 20 at the World Championship Cheese Contest with her Marieke Gouda Smoked Cumin.
Emmi Roth from Wisconsin
Emmi Roth took home three awards at the World Championship Cheese Contest held in Madison, Wisconsin, this week, including the honor of placing in the Top 20 Cheeses with their Roth Gorgonzola Cheese.
“Roth® Gorgonzola, a signature cheese from the company’s Wisconsin-made Roth brand of cheeses, scored 98.55 in the Gorgonzola cheese category, ranking it Best of Class and putting it into the Top 20 Cheeses. Roth Gorgonzola, made at Emmi Roth’s newest creamery in Seymour, Wisconsin, is an Italian-style blue aged 3+ months for a full, earthy flavor and pillowy texture.
The company’s Roth brand was also recognized for its Roth Monroe cheese, which scored an impressive 99.75 points in the Washed Rind/Smear Ripened Soft Cheeses category. Monroe, named after Roth’s original creamery in Monroe, Wisconsin, has earned top awards since its launch in June of 2018. Crafted by cheesemaker Madeline Kuhn, Roth Monroe is the only cheese of its kind made in Wisconsin.
Emmi Roth also represented cheeses they import from Switzerland, including their new Kaltbach™ Gouda, which scored a 99.20 in the Open Class: Hard Cheeses category. Kaltbach Gouda is the newest cave-aged cheese in the company’s line of Kaltbach cheeses aged in the famed 22 million-year-old Kaltbach Cave in Switzerland.”
The Maple Leaf Cheesemaking Team in Monroe, Wisconsin also made the Top 20 with their English Hollow Cheddar. Click here to see the full Top 20 list.
Yak’s Milk Cheese
I never even knew yak’s milk cheese existed but I got to taste this one at the World Championship Cheese Contest.
This Tibetan Yak’s milk cheese went on quite the journey to get to Madison, Wisconsin. Nomads in the Himalayas milk free-range yaks, collect their milk and give it to monks who make the cheese. The taste was kind of similar to a parmesan cheese. It was so interesting to learn about this unique cheese and the process in which they make it. Learn more about this unique and delicious cheese and watch us try it here: video.
2020 WORLD CHAMPION
Michael Spycher, Mountain Dairy Fritzenhaus
Gourmino Le Gruyère AOP
Urtenen-Schoenbuehl, Bern, Switzerland
Champion Round Score: 98.81
A Gruyere from Bern, Switzerland has been named the 2020 World Champion Cheese. The cheese, called Gourmino Le Gruyère AOP, is made by Michael Spycher of Mountain Dairy Fritzenhaus for Gourmino AG. Spycher also won the 2008 World Championship Cheese Contest with his Gruyere.
Earning an impressive score of 98.81 out of 100, Gourmino Le Gruyère AOP bested a record-breaking 3,667 entries in the 2020 contest. Produced for the past 900 years in the region surrounding the small town of Gruyère, Gourmino Le Gruyère AOP is still made today according to the traditional recipe. The cow’s milk cheese has a subtle, sophisticated flavor after ripening up to 24 months in mountain caves.
2020 First Runner Up
Hardegger Käse AG
Gallus Grand CRU
Hardegger Käse AG
Jonschwil, St. Gallen, Switzerland
Champion Round Score: 98.70
First runner-up in the contest, with a score of 98.70, is Gallus Grand CRU, a hard cow’s milk cheese made by Hardegger Käse AG of Jonschwil, St. Gallen, Switzerland. Lutjewiinkel Noord Hollandse Gouda PDO, a mature gouda aged four to ten months, made by Royal FrieslandCampina-Export earned the second runner-up position with a score of 98.66.