There are 1064 types of cheese in the competition.
The jurors met on Thursday morning in a large room in the Espace Saint-Marc in Le Châble, the capital of the municipality of Val de Bagnes. They came from all over Switzerland, but also from the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria, Italy and even Japan, where the cheese is very popular, as Andréas Leibundgut, project manager of the «Swiss Cheese Awards» at the branch organization Fromarte, the news agency Keystone-SDA said.
Gruyère, Tête de Moine, Glarner Alpkäse, semi-hard and soft goat cheese are just a few of the 32 cheese categories that are in competition. The Swiss Cheese Championships are open to all cheese producers. This year the competition includes around 300 producers who could submit a maximum of one cheese per category.
The task facing the jurors should not be underestimated. Each one of them has to taste 40 cheeses for five to six hours and “be very concentrated”.
The judges first examine the product’s appearance, then smell the pieces and squeeze them between their fingers to assess strength and durability. Only then do the experts let everything melt in their mouths. Aromas of caramel, hazelnut, quark and grass can unfold. Between bites, the judges neutralize their taste buds with some water or bread. “A cheese tasting is very similar to a wine tasting,” said Leibundgut.
The winners of each category take part in the election of the “Swiss Champion” on Friday, which is only chosen by foreign jurors. According to the project manager, it is more “a choice of the heart, as it is difficult to compare a Gruyère with a goat’s cheese”.
The “Swiss Cheese Awards” were created in 2000. The goal is to promote the cheese, but also to give the producers the opportunity to present their products and have them evaluated. This year the competition is part of the 18th edition of “Bagnes Capitale de la Raclette”, which runs until September 25th.