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It's Gouda news for a certain hard sheep's milk cheese from France.

Charlie Heller
March 09, 2018

It may be cheesy to ask, but of all the cheeses in the world, which single cheese reigns supreme over all others? To find the answer, among other reasons (like eating copious amounts of cheese), the world's top cheesemakers gather in Madison, Wisconsin every year to compete in the World Championship Cheese Contest. And, as of last night, the 2018 World Championship Cheese Contest has declared 2018's World Championship Cheese.

The winner of the overall top cheese, besting a record-breaking 3,402 cheese entries in this year's contest, is Esquirrou (pronounced ehs-keer-oo), a hard sheep's milk cheese crafted by Michael Touyarou at Mauleon Fromagerie in the Pyrénées Region of France and imported by Savencia Cheese USA of New Holland, Pennsylvania. With the contest's announcement describing its flavor as having "nutty notes and a toasted wheat aroma," Esquirrou earned a score of 98.376 out of 100 to take home the gold (yellow?).

Just barely runner-up with by .109 at a score of 98.267 was Azberger Ursteirer, a hard cow's milk cheese from Franz Moestl and Team of Almenland Stollenkäse in Austria, which, fittingly, was aged in a silver mine. And rounding out the top three was Mont Vully Bio, a raw milk cheese washed with Pinot Noir wine, from Ewald Schafer of Fromagerie Schafer in Switzerland, which was also just a very thin slice away at 98.256.

But while Europe took home the top honors, of the 26 nations representing in the competition, the U.S was easily the biggest winner, with gold medals in 87 of the 121 cheese contest classes—and among those, home-field Wisconsin easily eclipsed every other state with 47 gold medals all its own.

And don't worry, the World Championship Cheese Contest categories also get as specific as you'd hope. Everything from simple categories like "Buratta," "Mild Gouda," and "Aged Gouda to  "Surface (Mold) Ripened Goat's Milk Cheeses" and "Alcohol Washed Rind/ Smear-Ripened Cheese" each crowned their own 2018 champion, maybe with a cheese hat? Whatever the case, when their proud makers smiled for the cameras, it's not hard to guess what they said.