Brace yourselves, Wisconsin. More than 2,500 cheeses are coming to Madison for the World Championship Cheese Contest in March. Are you ready?
In good news, the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association is ready to roll. They’ve been hosting the World Contest for decades, and have a streamlined process of receiving, sorting, spitting, evaluating and awarding cheeses down to a science. That’s a good thing, because this year, a record-breaking 2,503 entries from 24 nations around the world were entered.
All cheeses will be judged between March 5-7, with viewing open to the public during daytime hours at the Monona Terrace. The real shindig, however, will happen the evening of Wednesday, March 7, when the public is invited to attend an exclusive tasting of more than 20 international and Wisconsin cheeses, and witness the final round of judging, live and in person. Tickets for “An Evening at the World Championship Cheese Contest” are $25 and are going fast. Buy yours now at www.cheesecontest.com because this event WILL sell out.
This year, several new nations have entered cheese into the contest, including India, Romania, Estonia and Croatia. They’ll join the returning nations of Argentina, Australia, Austria, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, England, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States.
Forty international judges will work from Monday, March 5 through noon on Wednesday, March 7 to sniff, taste and examine each entry, working in teams of two. The top three scoring cheeses and butters in each class will earn gold, silver and bronze medals, respectively.
Each two-person judging team pairs a U.S. judge with an international expert. This year, judges hail from Argentina, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, joining 20 judges from 13 states in the U.S.
More than 250 dairy industry volunteers — including yours truly — will provide support as judges work through more than 50,000 pounds of cheese and butter entries. I know I’m looking forward to my official “B-Team” ball cap again this year. Hey – there has to be a perk to hauling heavy boxes of cheese to judging tables all day, right?
It’s important to note that the World Championship Cheese Contest is a technical evaluation of cheese entries, using an objective measure of cheese defects to select the products in each class that best exemplify perfection for a cheese variety. The highest scoring cheeses and butters earn a gold medal, with silver and bronze medals awarded to second and third place finishers in each class.
The Contest is open between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Monday, March 5 and Tuesday, March 6 in the Exhibit Hall of the Monona Terrace Convention Center in Madison, Wis. First round judging will be completed Wednesday, March 7 from 9:00 a.m. to noon.
This Championship Round, set for 7 p.m. during the Wednesday, March 7 public event, will be broadcast as a live, video-streamed program on the WCMA website. In addition, contest results and digital images will be posted on the website throughout the competition. Visit www.worldchampioncheese.org for complete contest coverage.
In 2010, cheesemaker Cedric Vuille from Formagerie de La Brevine in the tiny village of La Brevine, Switzerland, was named World Champion in the Championship Round for his Le Gruyere Switzerland. The Swiss cheeses have been popular, often winning the World title. A U.S. World Champion is long overdue. Fingers crossed 2012 is our year!