Two thousand nine hundred and forty-eight cheeses from 23 different nations will face off for the coveted title of World’s Best Cheese at the biennial World Championship Cheese Contest March 9 at Monona Terrace Convention Center.
Cheeses from around the globe will transcend border boundaries in an act of bacterial diplomacy and compete in categories ranging from Smear Ripened Semi-soft to Smoked Gouda, and from Colby to Hard Sheep’s Milk. This year, eight yogurt categories will be judged alongside the butter and cheeses. This year’s competition is set to exhaustively honor all our favorite milk products.
Babcock Hall cheesemaker Gary Grossen, representing the University of Wisconsin, made submissions this year, perhaps looking to recreate his second place finish in the gouda category at the 2012 championships.
While Wisconsin has historically dominated the competition, taking first place honors in 34 of the 90 categories in 2014, a U.S. cheesemaker has failed to produce a world champion cheese since 1988. The past 28 years have been almost exclusively a European queso dominance. If things go according to plan, this year could mark the dairy state’s return to the pinnacle of cheesemaking artisanship.
Since the first World Cheese Championships in 1957, Wisconsin alone has captured 10 titles. An 11th title would return dominance to Wisconsin in the heated dairy product competition.
All proceeds from the three-day event will benefit the graduate student research program at the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research and Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin. Make no mistake, there are some gouda-hearted people behind this Madison event.
The World Championship Cheese Contest will be open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 7 and 8 free of charge. The exclusive Championship Round of Judging will take place March 9, and tickets are available for $25 on the World Champion Cheese Contest website. Five-hundred lucky ticket holders will be allowed to sample 50 of the world’s best cheeses, while observing old men and women from around the globe sniff, examine, taste then spit into garbage cans the final round entries. Ask nicely to bring a sack home as a souvenir!