Cheese experts converged on AUT School of Hospitality & Tourism on Sunday to taste their way through more than 280 entries to find New Zealand’s top cheese. NZSCA chair, Neil Willman commented on one of the exciting changes for the judging this year.

“The growth in Italian-style cheese has seen an increase with 28 different cheeses to be judged. It’s a reflection of the change to a more Mediterranean style of eating. The Italian cheese category includes the more well-known Italian favourites such as mozzarella, ricotta and mascarpone but interestingly there are other styles which are less familiar in New Zealand. I’m looking forward to seeing Scamorza, Stracciatella and Stracchino in this section.”

This year has also seen an increase in sheep milk products being judged, mainly because of the introduction of a new sheep milk category. Last year the panel had to assess six sheep’s milk cheeses, this year 15 sheep milk cheeses and three sheep milk yoghurts have been entered.

Associate Professor Craig Pritchard a facilitator for Sheep Milk NZ said the increase in sheep milk cheese entries is brilliant. “We’re absolutely blown away - what this tells us is that sheep milk cheese has captured the imagination of the New Zealand cheesemakers. It’s great to see that the small number of dedicated cheesemakers creating only sheep milk cheese has been able to inspire other makers across the country to try their hand at sheep milk cheese.”

Neil Willman was delighted Master Judge Russell Smith of Australia will again preside over the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards judging. “Russell judges at the world’s greatest cheese shows and so brings an international perspective. Russell is supported by a talented panel of 21 cheesemakers and industry experts from throughout the country.” He was particularly pleased to introduce a new category for Champion Fresh Italian Style Cheeses and to reintroduce the judging of butter and yoghurt. “We will be judging 19 butters and 15 yoghurts from producers across the country. As well as judging 20 cheeses made by dedicated home cheesemakers.

The NZ Champions of Cheese 2019 trophies are:

  • Countdown Champion of Champions (Commercial)
  • Puhoi Valley Champion of Champions (Boutique Cheese Producer)
  • Milk Test NZ Champion Cheesemaker
  • Fonterra Champion Original Cheese
  • NZ Food Safety Champion New Cheese Award
  • ECOLAB Champion Blue Cheese
  • CHR Hansen Champion Soft White Rind Cheese
  • Kiwi Labels Champion Feta Cheese
  • Green Valley Dairies Champion Fresh Unripened Cheese
  • Massey University Sheep Milk NZ Champion Sheep Cheese
  • Thermaflo Champion Washed Rind Cheese
  • Caspak Champion Packaging Award
  • Eurofins Champion European Style Cheese
  • Delta Wines Champion Flavoured Cheese
  • Sacco Systems Champion Fresh Italian Style Cheese
  • Tetra Pak Champion Cheddar Cheese
  • Big Chill Champion Farmhouse Cheese
  • Good George Brewing Champion Goat Cheese
  • Champion Export
  • Champion Dutch Style Cheese
  • Innovative Packaging Aspiring Cheesemaker
  • New World Cheese Lovers' Choice
  • Curds & Whey Champion Homecrafted Cheese & Cheesemaker
  • Huntley & Palmers Favourite NZ Specialty Cheese Shopping Experience
  • Champion Butter
  • Champion Yoghurt

NZ Champions of Cheese Gold, Silver and Bronze medal winners will be named on Monday 25 March 2019. The announcement of the 26 Trophy Winners will take place on Tuesday 21 May at a three-course gala dinner.