The World Championship Cheese Contest and United States Championship Cheese Contest are held in alternating years in Wisconsin. Here are the award-winning cheeses for 2018.
Wisconsin won big again in the 2018 World Championship Cheese Contest, but while the state won the most awards overall and took the most categories, it couldn’t bring home the top prize.
The 2018 World Champion is a hard sheep’s milk cheese from France called Esquirrou (pronounced ess-kee-ROO). Crafted in the Pyrénées mountains—Basque country, well known as one of the greatest food regions of the world—the cheese is aged at least 90 days to develop its toasted wheat aroma and nutty flavor notes.
The runners-up in the cheese championship were Arzberger Ursteirer, a hard, grass-fed cow’s milk cheese aged in a silver mine in Austria, and Mont Vully Bio, an organic semi-hard cheese from Switzerland washed in pinot noir.
World’s Largest Cheese Championship
The World Championship Cheese Contest, held every other year opposite the U.S. Cheese Championship, is the largest technical cheese, yogurt and butter contest in the world. This year it drew more than 3,400 entries—a record, up 15% from two years ago—from 27 countries (including the U.S.) and 32 states. The event was held in Madison, Wisconsin, March 6–8, 2018, with the winners announced at the final evening’s Cheese Champion event.
While Wisconsin could not duplicate its success from two years ago when Emmi Roth USA’s alpine-style Grand Cru Surchoix won the World Cheese Championship, Wisconsin and the U.S. did not come away empty-handed. American cheesemakers had seven of the top 20 finalists, and five of them were from Wisconsin. Two of the finalists were made in Antigo, Wisconsin, by Plymouth-based Sartori Company; the rest were a mild Cheddar by Maple Leaf Cheese in Monroe, a cave-aged mixed-milk cheese from Fond du Lac County, and a mild Gouda from Manitowoc County.
All told, Wisconsin won Best of Class in 46 categories, with 129 total awards (first, second or third) to win the overall medal count.
With 121 categories (including those for yogurt and butter), there are too many to list (for complete results, visit the official site here), but we’ve listed the winners in some notable categories…
There are eight categories of Cheddar cheese.
The top Cheddar score overall was 99.50, for a Mild Cheddar Aged 0–3 Months, by Team Middlebury of Cabot Creamery Cooperative, Middlebury, VT.
The Best of Class for a Cheddar Aged 1–2 Years went to English Hollow Cheddar by Maple Leaf Cheesemakers, Monroe, WI, with a score of 99.20.
Best of Class: Colby Deli Longhorn, Team 2 Arena, Arena Cheese, Arena, WI (99.40)
Swiss Style (Rinded)
Best of Class: Emmentaler AOP Switzerland, Fritz Baumgartner, Mountain Dairy Mühlekehr, Gourmino AG, Bellmund, Switzerland (99.50)
Best of Class: BelGioioso Parmesan, Tim Dudek, BelGioioso Cheese, Green Bay, WI (99.20)
Asiago, Aged Over 6 Months
Best of Class: Cello Handcrafted Asiago Wheel, Lake Country Dairy Team, Arthur Schuman Inc., Fairfield, NJ (99.15)
Second Award: Erin Radtke, Sartori Company, Antigo, WI, Sartori Reserve Extra-Aged Asiago (98.90)
Baby Swiss Style
Best of Class: Baby Swiss 1, Team Steenderen, FrieslandCampina Export, Wolvega, Friesland, Netherlands (99.45)
Second Award: Holey Cow Wheel, Reggie Jones, Central Coast Creamery, Paso Robles, CA (99.35)
Third Award: 40# Block Baby Swiss, Jamie Fahrney, Chalet Cheese Co-op, Monroe, WI (98.95)
Brick & Muenster
Best of Class: Brick, Dave Buholzer, Klondike Cheese Co., Monroe, WI (99.60)*
Second Award: Muenster, Steve Buholzer, Klondike Cheese Co., Monroe, WI (99.50)
*NOTE: Klondike reprises its Best of Class award from the 2017 U.S. Cheese Championship.
Best of Class: Team Edelweiss, Edelweiss Creamery LLC, Monticello, WI (99.65)
Second Award: Steve Stettler, Decatur Dairy Inc., Brodhead, WI (99.40)
Third Award: Ron Bechtolt, Klondike Cheese Co., Monroe, WI (99.30)
Best of Class: Havarti Loaf with Dill, Ed Giamarino, Arla Foods, Kaukauna, WI (99.35)
Second Award: Havarti Onion, Team Edelweiss, Edelweiss Creamery LLC, Monticello, WI (99.20)
Third Award: Havarti with Dill, Steve Stettler, Decatur Dairy Inc., Brodhead, WI (98.95)
Best of Class: Eric Steltenpohl, Saxon Cheese LLC, Cleveland, WI (99.85)
(NOTE: Eric also won Best of Class in the Smoked Gouda category.)
Best of Class: 2-lb. Triple Cream, Lactalis, Belmont, WI (99.55)
Second Award: 8-oz. Brie, Lactalis, Belmont, WI (99.45)
Third Award: 2-lb. Brie, Lactalis, Belmont, WI (99.40)
(We find it notable that a Wisconsin producer won the top three awards for Brie, which one would expect to be dominated by the French!)
Open Class: Flavored Cheeses with Sweet or “Dessert” Condiments
Best of Class: Sartori Reserve Espresso BellaVitano, Mike Matucheski, Sartori Company, Antigo, WI (99.40)
Second Award: Sartori Reserve Merlot BellaVitano, Mike Matucheski, Sartori Company, Antigo, WI (99.35)
(Matucheski and Sartori also took a Second Award in the Flavored Hard Cheeses category with a 99.40 for Sartori Reserve Black Pepper BellaVitano.)
Hard Mixed Milk Cheeses
Best of Class: Sartori Limited Edition Pastorale Blend, Mike Matucheski and Erin Radtke, Sartori Company, Antigo, WI (99.85)
(This cheese was the Best of Class winner in the U.S. Cheese Championship in 2015, and took second last year.)
Prepared Cheese Foods
Best of Class: Chipotle Bread Cheese, Carr Valley Cheese Makers, Carr Valley Cheese, La Valle, WI (99.60)
After narrowing down the Best of Class winners to the top 20 finalists, the judges announced the following as the top three cheeses of the year:
2018 World Champion (Best of Show)
Esquirrou, Mauleon Fromagerie (France), Savencia Cheese USA (importer), New Holland, PA
2018 First Runner-Up
Arzberger Ursteirer, Franz Möstl and Team, Almenland Stollenkäse, Austria
2017 Second Runner-Up
Mont Vully Bio, Ewald Schafer, Fromagerie Schafer, Switzerland
Congratulations to the winners…and remember to support the fine Master Cheesemakers who work so hard to produce an exceptional product for you to enjoy with family and friends.
Stay tuned for next year and the 2019 United States Championship Cheese Contest!