Cheesemaker Gerard Sinnesberger took top honors at the 2014 World Championship Cheese Contest with his Original Schweizer Rohmilch Emmentaler, a large format, big wheel Swiss cheese.
Out of possible 100 points, the Emmentaler scored 97.85 in the final round of judging Wednesday. The cheese was deemed the best of 2,615 entries from 22 countries.
An Austrian entry, called Erzherzog Johann, was second. Another Swiss entry, Gruyere AOP, was third.
A U.S. cheesemaker hasn't won the contest sponsored by the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association since 1988, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
Although Americans weren't in the top three this year, they took home the most medals, winning 59 of the 90 categories judged. Switzerland came in second with seven gold medals, while the Netherlands had five.
Among U.S. contestants, Wisconsin dominated with 33 gold medals. Chief judge Bob Aschenbrock credited the quality of milk produced by Wisconsin farmers and work done by state agriculture officials and the Center for Dairy Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
"They've improved the milk supply immensely in the last 15 to 20 years. When I was making cheese back in the 1960s and 1970s, it was nothing like it is today. Everybody else follows our lead, basically," said Aschenbrock, a longtime cheesemaker.
Four Wisconsin cheese makers made it to the final round of competition: Brenda Jensen, of Hidden Springs Creamery in Westby, with a hard mixed milk cheese; Marieke Penterman, of Holland's Family Cheese in Thorp, with an aged Gouda; Katie Hedrich-Fuhrmann, of LaClare Farms in Malone, with a hard goat cheese; and Steve Bierhals, of BelGioioso Cheese in Green Bay, with a Parmesan.
Holland's Family Cheese won best of show with a smoked Gouda last year at the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest in Green Bay. The national and international competitions are held in alternate years.