MADISON, Wis. -- Cheesemakers from Wisconsin claimed the prestigious Best of Show Award, along with 54 additional ribbons at the 21st Annual Conference of the American Cheese Society here.
naria, an entry in the Marinated Cheeses category. The cheese has been described as a pungent, mixed milk, hard, grating-style cheese that has been cured in olive oil.
Wisconsin took 15 first-place ribbons in all, excluding the Best of Show award, and added 22 second-place awards and 17 thirds, making this year's ACS competition the most successful ever for the state, officials with the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board said. More than 720 cheeses were entered in the competition, which was judged by 20 judges from across the country. Unlike other competitions, in which cheeses are judged solely on technical merits, the ACS contest also evaluates aesthetics, such as flavor, aroma and texture.
Officials said several of the ACS specialty cheese winners are made by Wisconsin Master Cheesemakers, who have completed a rigorous certification program administered by the Center for Dairy Research and supported by the WMMB. Designed to build and reinforce quality standards, the program is similar to those in Europe and is the only one of its kind in the country. Specialty cheese production in Wisconsin increased significantly in 2003, a sign of growing consumer interest in many different varieties of cheese, a WMMB official said.
Production of specialty cheeses increased by 8%, to 302 million pounds, or 13% of total Wisconsin volume, said Patrick Geoghegan, senior vice president of corporate communications for the WMMB. Although consumers associate Wisconsin with cheese, many are not aware of the sheer number of types, styles and varieties of cheeses made in the state -- well over 350, Geoghegan said, referring to recent research.
"This performance is terrific news for both consumers and the Wisconsin cheese industry," said Geoghegan. "It makes a strong statement about the diversity and versatility of our cheesemakers by demonstrating not only our commitment to Wisconsin heritage cheeses, but the expansion of our expertise to farmstead, artisanal and washed-rind styles that are gaining popularity in the specialty cheese category."