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And the 2019 U.S. Cheese Champion Is ...

There’s a new titleholder in America's cheese—and it’s Swiss.

Specifically, it’s Baby Swiss from Guggisberg Cheese. On March 7, the 2019 U.S. Championship Cheese Contest awarded the Millersburg, Ohio, creamery first place. It defeated 2,554 entries from across the country.

The biennial contest to find America’s best cheese is always held in Wisconsin. And of the 20 finalists this year, half came from the Badger State. A Wisconsin win seemed likely. But as creameries all over the U.S. advance their techniques, competition gets tighter. It also gets more delicious.

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Judges try 20 finalist cheeses in Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. on March 6, 2019.

Chad Galer of National Dairy Council was one of 54 judges who chose the winner. Indeed, this Baby Swiss from Ohio was memorable. “It had an expected mild Swiss flavor with no ‘off’ flavors, a really nice texture, and an even distribution of the eyes, or the holes in the Swiss cheese.”

Judges look for nearly perfect flavor, texture and appearance for the style of cheese—whether Swiss, cheddar, or something else, Galer said. Their mission is to find the very best. And the very best really needs to stand out because each judge will try 50 to 70 cheeses in two days.

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A finalist cheese is held up for the public to see. 

“These are the Oscars of cheese,” said Rebekah Sweeney of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association at an event where the public could eat some of the entries.

If that’s the case, then Guggisberg Cheese is Katherine Hepburn. Richard Guggisberg humbly took the stage when his win was announced at a cheese-tasting event for the public in Green Bay. He’d been in the competition’s limelight before—when the creamery took the title in 2015.

And you could say that Marieke Gouda of Thorp, Wis., is Meryl Streep. That creamery nabbed first and second runner-up for two of its Goudas. The cheese maker is no stranger to winning, as it had placed high in three previous competitions.

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Richard Guggisberg of Ohio holds the champion cheese: Baby Swiss from Guggisberg Cheese. Marieke Penterman holds a runner-up Gouda from Marieke Gouda of Wis.

Marieke Penterman, who operates Marieke Gouda with her husband, Rolf, are from farms in the Netherlands. As she accepted the awards, she had one specific group of people in mind: “I want to dedicate this second- and third-place award to all the dairy farmers of the United States!”

And where did all the cheese from this contest go next? Paul’s Pantry, which serves Brown County, Wis., will offer it to clients.

All winners will be recognized again at a WCMA banquet on April 18 that raises money for scholarships for future leaders of the dairy industry.

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The public was invited to try 100 of the entries on March 7, 2019, in Green Bay, Wis., where the champion cheese was announced.