My favorite international cheese was an Aged Cheddar from Ireland, which was all decked out in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. Cheese cutter volunteer extraordinaires Sara Hill, Patty Peterson, Dee Wideman and Chris Luken (who by the way did all the prep work on 15 world cheeses – THANK YOU) carved the Irish cheddar block into a giant “I”, topping with feather boas and beads. Poof! Instant cheese party.
An international panel of expert judges may have named a Swiss Gruyere as the 2010 World Championship Cheese today, but Wisconsin cheesemakers still captured 21 of 79 gold medals during the three-day contest.
Cheesemaker Cedric Vuille, who operates Fromagerie de La Brevine in the Swiss village of La Brevine near the border between Switzerland and France, took top honors out of 2,318 entries from 20 countries for his Gruyere. Out of possible 100 points, Vuille’s cheese scored 98.79 in the final round of judging, during which judges re-evaluated all gold-winning cheeses to determine the champion. (Note that this is updated info – the contest sent out a correction on Friday with the correct name of the cheesemaker).
First runner-up in the contest, with a score of 98.52, is Andeerer Traum, a smear-ripened hard cheese made by Sennerei Andeer company in Switzerland. Second runner-up is Gmundner Berg Premium, a semi-soft cheese, made by Alois Pesendorfer Crew, of Gmunden, Austria, which scored 98.46.
Overall, U.S. cheesemakers dominated the competition, earning gold medals in 51 of the total 79 categories judged. Canada and the Netherlands came in second among the countries, with five golds apiece. Denmark had four gold medals, while Austria, Spain and Switzerland all took three. New Zealand won two gold medals, and Australia, France and Ireland each captured one apiece.
Among U.S. states, Wisconsin dominated with 21 gold medals. New York took six golds, while Idaho earned five and California four. Vermont capture three golds, Georgia and Pennsylvania two, and Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, New Jersey, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon and South Carolina each took one gold medal.
Today’s announcement of the World Champion wrapped up an amazing three days here in Wisconsin, as Madison was lucky enough to host the contest right in my backyard. On Wednesday night, Wisconsin Cheese Originals partnered with the contest to host a tasting spectacle called Wisconsin Vs. The World.
About 300 people sampled and compared 15 international cheeses vs. their Wisconsin artisan cheese counterparts at the sold-out celebration, all the while meeting dozens of renowned cheese judges from around the world, as well as 11 award-winning artisan Wisconsin cheesemakers, all sampling their best of the best.
The evening ended only as a Wisconsin cheese event should: with cheesemaker Willi Lehner, of Bleu Mont Dairy, closing with his famous Swiss yodeling. I only got the last part on video, but it’s worth it:
All in all, this week was a good one to live in Wisconsin. Good cheese, good company, and a chest of gold medals. Rock on.