A panel of 260 judges from 25 countries ranked a U.S. cheese — Rogue Creamery’s Rogue River Blue — the best in the world at the 2019 World Cheese Awards (WCA) in Bergamo, Italy. This year’s competition included a bigger and more diverse lineup than ever before, said the Arlington, Va.-based USA Cheese Guild, featuring cheeses from around the globe.

A record-breaking 3,804 cheeses from 42 different nations were judged in a single day. While the rind and the body of the cheese, its color, texture and consistency were all considered, the ultimate judging criterion was taste.

The panel recognized the creativity and craftsmanship of U.S. cheesemakers, awarding a variety of new and elegant flavor combinations in additional to traditional favorites. In total, U.S. cheeses had their best showing to date, USA Cheese Guild noted, winning 131 honors, including seven Super Gold, 17 Gold, 40 Silver and 67 Bronze medals.

Along with being the largest single-country producer and exporter of cheese in the world, the United States boasts cheesemakers that tout award-winning production of more than 600 cheese types ranging from soft, fresh options to hard, aged varieties.

“Over hundreds of years, U.S. cheesemakers have quietly formed their exceptional artisanship from a melting pot of cultures to deliver innovation, variety and versatility to fit any global cuisine,” said Angélique Hollister, executive director of the USA Cheese Guild. “With continuing award recognition and broadened distribution, markets worldwide are discovering the quality of U.S. cheese.”

The impressive recognition at WCA validates growing consumer appreciation for U.S. cheese and supplements industry efforts to change perception that high-quality cheeses come from only other countries. This was the impetus behind establishing the USA Cheese Guild — a center of U.S. cheese knowledge and education for the international buyer and end-user community.

“We put a concerted effort into raising the profile of U.S. cheese by telling our story,” said Hollister. “And the global community has embraced what sets us apart — our legacy of excellence, forged from experience, but unbound by tradition.”

David Gremmels, president, Rogue Creamery, said he is humbled by and grateful for the big win. Rogue River Blue also won the Best USA Cow’s Milk Cheese trophy, sponsored by the Guild.

“It has been nearly 16 years since Rogue River Blue was recognized (Gold medal) at the World Cheese Awards in 2003,” he said. “As a result, I worked with regulators, legislators and side by side with the U.S. Dairy Export Council creating the first raw milk cheese health certificate.

“Rogue River Blue, amongst other American cheeses like Pleasant Ridge Reserve and Harbison, can now be found in fine cheese shops and restaurants in Europe, the U.K., Australia, Japan and around the globe,” Gremmels added. “I appreciate the sponsorship of this competition by the USA Cheese Guild. I share this honor with my dedicated team at Rogue Creamery, our organic herd of Brown Swiss and Holstein cows and truly appreciate our customers and partnership with Savencia supporting Rogue Creamery’s organic and b-corporation values.”

Beyond raising awareness of U.S. cheese at the WCA, the USA Cheese Guild said it used this past year to launch its flagship program — the USA Cheese Specialist Certification Program — a premiere, one-of-a-kind global training program with tracks for both culinary and retail professionals.

The certification program educates students and participants on how the depth and breadth of U.S. cheese can be used to capitalize on profitable global trends. The US Cheese Guild said it has plans for further expansion of its multi-faceted programs in 2020.

For more information about the Guild, visit facebook.com/usacheeseguild. For a complete list of winners, visit https://gff.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/WCA19-Judging-All-winners-as-of-AM-21_10_19-V3.pdf.