This Cheese Was Just Crowned ‘World Champion’
Every other year, top cheesemakers convene in Madison, Wisconsin for the biennial World Championship Cheese Contest. The three-day event claims to be the "largest technical cheese, butter, and yogurt competition in the world," and this year, it drew representatives from 26 nations to compete for the ultimate title—the World Champion Cheese. While France took home the grand prize in 2018, the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association announced on March 5 that a Gruyère from Bern, Switzerland was triumphant this time.
The Gourmino Le Gruyère AOP, made by Michael Spycher of Mountain Dairy Fritzenhaus for Gourmino AG, scored a 98.81 out of 100 and beat out a record-breaking 3,667 other entries. It’s a cow’s milk cheese with a “subtle, sophisticated flavor” that’s been produced for the past 900 years in the region surrounding the town of Gruyère. Spycher, who also won the competition in 2008, still uses the traditional recipe and ripens the cheese in mountain caves for up to 24 months.
A Gallus Grand Cru from Switzerland was the first-runner up with a close score of 98.70, and the Netherlands earned second runner-up with a Lutjewiinkel Noord Hollandse Gouda PDO. Although the U.S. didn’t place in the top three this year, it did rack up an impressive gold medal count, earning medals in 90 of the 132 contests classes, according to the announcement. State by state, Wisconsin unsurprisingly had the most gold medals (45), followed by Vermont (nine gold medals) in second and California and New York tied for third place, with five gold medals each.
An American cheese did come in first place at the (separate) annual World Cheese Awards last October—a first for the country. Over 3,800 cheeses from 42 countries on six continents were entered, but in the end, Oregon-based Rogue Creamery won with its Rogue River Blue. The cheese is hand-wrapped in Syrah grape leaves that have been soaked in pear liqueur, and is said to have notes of "fruit, spice, blackberry, vanilla, hazelnut, chocolate and bacon." If you’re interested, you can order it on Rogue Creamery’s website.