Wisconsin Cheese Makers Take Top Honors At US Contest

Industry Experts Say Consumers Are More Interested In Award-Winning Cheese, Increasing Competition Among Makers

Cheese competition
Carrie Antlfinger/AP Photo

Wisconsin cheese makers won the top three places at this year’s U.S. Championship Cheese Contest.

The nation’s top cheese honor went to Reserve Black Pepper BellaVitano, a flavored Italian-style cheese from the Sartori Company in Antigo.

Interestingly, (Sartori Company’s) winning cheese was a flavored hard cheese and you don’t always see that in that upper echelon of cheese competitions,” said Rebekah Sweeney from the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association.

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The Black Pepper BellaVitano scored 99.02 out of 100 points.

There were more entries than usual in this year’s contest, with 2,303 entries from 33 different states.

After a Wisconsin cheese maker won last year’s World Championship, Sweeney said the winner saw a significant boost in sales.

“And I think a lot of cheese makers would like a piece of that and I think many of them felt it was wise to submit their cheese,” Sweeney said.

Sweeney said consumers have become more interested in seeking out award-winning cheeses, motivating producers to enter their best creations into the competition.

First runner up went to an aged cheddar from Agropur in Weyauwega and second runner up went to Marieke Gouda Belegen from Marieke Gouda in Thorp.