The 2018 World Championship Cheese Contest takes place in Madison, Wisconsin March 6-8, and with a record-breaking 3,402 entries in over 120 categories, this year’s competition is anticipated to be the fiercest one yet.
With some of the highest technical standards for cheesemaking and a history of winning awards, Wisconsin cheesemakers are expected to take home top honors at this year’s World Championship Cheese Contest. Here are a few Wisconsin cheeses and cheesemakers to watch for during this year’s competition:
Watch for: Emmi Roth® Grand Cru® Surchoix
At the last World Championship Cheese contest, Emmi Roth’s Grand Cru® Surchoix took home the highest honor and marked the first time in 28 years that a cheese from the United States had done so. Roth® Grand Cru® Surchoix is a washed-rind alpine-style cheese aged a minimum of nine months to create a firm texture and complex flavors of caramel, fruit and mushroom.
The Future Is Female
Of the 1,200 licensed cheesemakers in the state of Wisconsin, fewer than 60 are women. However, that number is growing as more women win high profile industry awards and pave the way for future female cheesemakers.
Watch for: Marieke Penterman for Marieke® Gouda Belegen
One such cheesemaker is Marieke Penterman. Just four months after crafting her first batch of gouda in November 2006, Penterman captured a gold award at the 2007 U.S. Championship Cheese Contest. Over one hundred awards followed including, most recently, second runner-up at the 2017 U.S. Cheese Championship and a first place for her smoked gouda at the 2017 American Cheese Society Competition.
Watch for: Katie Fuhrmann for LaClare Family Creamery Cave Aged Chandoka
After a trip to Holland in 2009, Katie Fuhrmann fell in love with cheesemaking. Soon after, she became the head cheesemaker at her family’s farm, LaClare Family Creamery, producing goat and mixed milk (goat and cow) cheeses. At 26, Fuhrmann won Best of Show at the 2011 U.S. Cheese Championship. She was, and still is, the youngest recipient to win and the second female to receive the award.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Watch for: Andy Hatch for Uplands Cheese Pleasant Ridge Reserve
Wisconsin cheesemaker Andy Hatch of Upland’s Cheese is known for making America’s most awarded cheese. Pleasant Ridge Reserve is an alpine-style farmstead cheese crowned Best of Show at the 2003 U.S. Cheese Championship and is the only cheese to win Best of Show at the prestigious American Cheese Society Competition three separate times.
Recently, Hatch also took home top honors from Slow Food International, a world renowned non-profit that promotes traditional food production and sustainable farming.
Watch for: Chalet Cheese Cooperative Baby Swiss, Schuman Cheese® Parmesan, BelGioioso® Fresh Mozzarella and Pine River® Swiss & Almond Cold Pack Cheese Food
The state of Wisconsin has some of the highest technical standards when it comes to cheese production. Not only is it the only state to require a license to make cheese, it is also the only place to offer a master certification program for veteran cheesemakers. That said, Wisconsin cheesemakers know what it takes to make award-winning cheeses and have a history of taking home top awards in highly technical competitions like the World Championship Cheese Contest.
In fact, during the 2016 World Championship Cheese Contest Wisconsin cheesemakers won 42 Best of Class Awards, 37 second place awards, and 47 third place awards. That year also marked the sixth consecutive World Championship in which Wisconsin won more than 30 percent of all awards given. Keep an eye out for these 2016 Best of Class winners to take home the title again in 2018.
Watch for: Sartori Black Pepper Bellavitano, Emmi Roth® Grand Cru® Surchoix and Roelli Cheese Haus
After sweeping the top awards and 31 competition classes at the 2017 U.S. Cheese Championship, Wisconsin cheesemakers were able to celebrate their first-ever “grand slam” as winners of all three of the nation’s top cheesemaking competitions.
Sartori’s Reserve Black Pepper BellaVitano® was named Grand Champion at the 2017 U.S. Championship Cheese Contest, Roelli Cheese Haus’ Little Mountain earned Best of Show at the 2016 American Cheese Society Competition and Emmi Roth’s Grand Cru® Surchoix was World Champion at the 2016 World Championship Cheese Contest.