When the World Championship Cheese Contest takes place next month in Madison it will mark another record for the growing event.
Officials with the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association announced Friday that 3,667 entries have been received for the contest that will run March 3-5 and draw competitors and judges from around the world to Monona Terrace. The contest, held every other year opposite the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest in Green Bay, drew a record 3,402 entries in 2018. This year’s event drew entries from 36 states and 26 countries.
“Both in the U.S. and around the world, our contest’s gold medal on the labels of award-winning cheese drives consumer purchases and boosts sales,” said Kirsten Strohmenger, the contest’s manager. “Our contest offers them the chance at a lucrative title with a guarantee of fair and impartial technical evaluation from a team of internationally renowned judges.”
This year’s contest includes 132 classes, up from 121 classes in 2018. New categories this year include those for dried milk and whey powders, which received 103 submissions. An “extra-aged Gouda” classification “brought in a notable spike” of Gouda submissions, which increased by 35 percent compared to 2018, Strohmenger said.
The contest was initiated in 1957 and is the largest technical cheese, butter and yogurt competition in the world. Entries are evaluated on flavor, body and texture, salt, color, finish, packaging and other attributes. A gold, silver and bronze medal are awarded to the three highest-scoring entries in each class.
In 1980, the contest had just 212 entries, but entries grew to 1,033 by 2000. By 2010, the contest had 2,318 entries and 78 categories, with 2,619 entries in 90 categories in 2014. In 2016, the contest featured 2,955 entries in 110 categories.
“As trends in cheesemaking shift, so, too, do classes in the World Championship Cheese Contest,” Strohmenger said. “Ensuring that every cheese is fairly judged against the standards of its type ultimately ensures that when our judges name the Grand Champion, you know it truly is the best cheese in the world.”
In 2018, a hard sheep’s milk cheese called Esquirrou, made in France at Mauleon Fromagerie and imported by Savencia Cheese USA, took top honors. Wisconsin placed five cheeses among the 20 finalists but failed to get a cheese in the top three. But Wisconsin entries dominated the competition with first-place finishes in 46 of the 121 categories, 46 second-place finishes and 37 third places. Those numbers included a sweep of the top three spots in 18 categories.
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