Entries in the 2014 World Championship Cheese Contest have reached a new record, growing five percent to 2,615 entries from 22 nations around the world, according to Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, host of the competition.
Cheese and butter entries continue to arrive for the judging competition set for March 18-19 in Madison, Wisconsin.
"It's a great honor to execute the world's largest technical cheese and butter contest," said John Umhoefer, WCMA executive director. "We would like to congratulate and thank the world dairy community for supporting this exciting competition."
The largest international panel ever convened for the World Championship Cheese Contest will work two days at the Monona Terrace Convention Center in Madison, Wisconsin, to select medalists in a record 90 cheese and butter classes.
"Fifty cheese and butter experts from around the world will come together to evaluate the entries and choose the 2014 World Champion," said Jane Cisler, Contest Manager. "These experts represent the wide breadth of knowledge necessary in this global competition."
Cheesemakers and buttermakers will send entries to Wisconsin by March 7 for the competition, including makers in Australia, Austria, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and the United States.
Judges will work Tuesday, March 18 and Wednesday, March 19 to sniff, taste and examine each entry, working in teams of two. The top three scoring entries 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, Croatia, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, joining judges from 14 U.S. states.
Judges will work with IPads this year to score the cheeses. "We have created a scoring system which enables the judges to score cheeses electronically," Cisler said. "It's quick and efficient, and also allows for immediate feedback to the contest entrant," said Cisler. "Scores and score sheets are available to the entrants immediately following judging."
Assisting and leading this judging team is Chief Judge Robert Aschebrock from Stratford, Wis., emeritus chief judge Bill Schlinsog, and assistant chief judges Stan Dietsche with Oshkosh Cheese Sales & Storage, Tim Czmowski with Agropur, Sandy Toney from Masters Gallery Foods and consultant Jim Mueller from Green Bay, Wis.
More than 250 dairy industry manufacturers and suppliers the renowned B-Team led by Brian Eggebrecht with Welcome Dairy in Colby, Wis. provide vital support as judges examine, sniff and taste more than 50,000 pounds of cheese and butter entries.
"All of these volunteers join with Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association to host a fair, objective evaluation," said Aschebrock. "We're pleased to put all entries and top scores in each class on-line, in real time. We want to present a contest that's honest and transparent for all the world to see," he said.
Strong growth in the contest is reflected in several cheese categories as well as in new classes:
Aged gouda entries grew 118 percent to 48;
Cottage cheese entries doubled;
Flavored, hard cheeses nearly doubled to 51 entries;
Open classes for soft-ripened cheeses debuted with 34 entries;
Flavored soft goat's milk cheeses grew by over 35 percent to 60 entries;
Hard sheep milk cheese entries grew 50 percent to 59;
Total entries of goat, sheep and mixed milk cheeses rose to 346.
Thirty-one states in the U.S. will send cheese or butter entries as well as the Canadian provinces Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Prince Edward Island, Ontario and Quebec. The participating U.S. states include cheese and butter from Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.
The World Championship Cheese Contest is a technical evaluation of 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 to the public between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on March 18 and 9 a.m. to noon on March 19 in the Exhibit Hall of the Monona Terrace Convention Center in Madison, Wis.
In the evening on March 19, Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association and Wisconsin Cheese Originals will host a gala, ticketed event to benefit Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin in the Exhibition Hall at Monona Terrace. During this charitable event, the entire panel of Contest judges will evaluate the "Sweet Sixteen" the top 16 gold medal cheeses in the competition while guests enjoy exotic cheeses selected from dozens of Contest categories.
This event, "An Evening at the World Championship Cheese Contest A Benefit for Second Harvest," begins at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 19. Judges will taste the 16 finalists and announce a best-of-show, World Champion Cheese during the reception. Tickets are $35 for this evening reception and may be purchased at www.cheesecontest.com. A portion of ticket proceeds and sponsorships from this event will benefit Second Harvest Foodbank.
Contest result and digital images will be posted on the World Championship Cheese Contest website throughout the competition. Visit www.worldchampioncheese.org for complete contest coverage.
Winners from around the globe will travel to Milwaukee to receive their awards during the International Cheese Technology Expo, April 22-24, 2014. During the Expo, gold medal cheeses are auctioned to support the contest, scholarships and the WCMA education initiatives. The Expo concludes April 24 with a gala awards banquet for the winning manufacturers.