Holey Cow Product! Swiss Gruyère Claims Cheese Championship

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Christian Schmutz of the Swiss Cheesemakers Association hoists a 77-pound wheel of gruyère, which won the World Championship Cheese Contest last week. John Hart / Wisconsin State Journal / AP Images

It doesn’t get any cheddar than this: After days of deliberation, a delectable dairy product has emerged victorious from the 2020 World Championship Cheese Contest, held last week in Madison, Wisconsin.

This year’s victor, a gruyère cooked up by Michael Spycher of Mountain Dairy Fritzenhaus in Switzerland, was praised by judge Stefan Truttman as “quite a good cheese” with je ne sais quoi superiority. “It could be the grass, it could be the cows,” Truttmann tells Jane Burns at the Wisconsin State Journal. “Obviously [Spycher’s] got a certain trick that makes his the best.”

Spycher, considered a cheese celebrity back home thanks to his many dairy-related accolades, was not there to accept the award in person. But his product, in the form of a 77-pound wheel of gruyère, was hoisted into the air by representatives from the Swiss Cheesemaker’s Association.

The prize was an encore act for Spycher, who won the same contest—held every two years in the Badger State—in 2008 with another batch of Swiss cheese. His newest entry, named Gourmino Le Gruyère AOP, raked in an impressive score of 98.81 out of 100, beating out 3,666 other entries submitted from 26 nations, reports Ryan W. Miller for USA Today.

Described by the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association as a cow’s milk cheese with “a subtle, sophisticated flavor,” Gourmino Le Gruyère AOP has a rich, creamy history. For nearly a millennium, dairy connoisseurs have stuck to the same recipe to craft the cheese, which requires a two-year ripening stint in mountain caves to fully mature.

In this year’s iteration of what’s considered the largest technical cheese, butter and yogurt competition in the world, a panel of 55 experts from 19 countries sifted through a dizzying bevy of dairy products, which were sorted into 132 categories, each with their own award. After evaluating the entries’ taste, smell and texture, the judged pared their selection down to 20 finalists, before giving the grand prize to Spycher’s gruyère last Thursday. Per Food and Wine’s Bridget Hallinan, another Switzerland-source cheese called Gallus Grand CRU took second place with a score of 98.7.

Wisconsin cheesemakers dominated the competition in their home state—often referred to as America’s Dairyland—taking home 45 gold models out of the 132 classes. “Winning more awards than any other state or country is just one reason we can proudly call ourselves the State of Cheese,” Suzanne Fanning, Chief Marketing Officer for Wisconsin Cheese, says in a statement.