nzsca promotional image: several wedges and wheels of cheese. a camembert, a brie, a blue, and a cheddar are immediately obvious but there are a few other cheeses.

Hamilton, heart of the Waikato and therefore New Zealand dairy, will host next year’s NZ Champions of Cheese Awards. NZSCA chair Neil Willman is thrilled cheesemakers will be coming to Waikato. “It makes sense to celebrate and recognise the country’s finest cheese, butter and yoghurt dairy in the country’s dairy heartland,” he stated.

Willman went on to explain there are further innovations for the Awards in 2019, including the introduction of a Cheese Retailer Award. “[This award is] to recognise and encourage excellence in educating consumers and NZ in selling speciality cheese,” he said. He also said butter and yoghurt judging will be re-introduced in 2019 after a brief hiatus.

Another change-up is the judging style: for the first time, all cheeses will be judged by a panel of three. The presiding judge will be Master Judge Russell Smith of Australia, who has proved himself in the role previously.

The NZSCA recently released data demonstrating New Zealand consumers are enjoying locally-made cheese more than previously, with a volume (KG) growth of 6.9 percent over the past year.

Entered cheeses will be judged in Auckland on Sunday 24 February, with winners to be announced in March. The New Zealand Specialist Cheesemakers Association has been running the Awards for fifteen years now, and the 16th annual NZSCA Gala Awards Evening will kick off on 21 May, at a three-course dinner featuring some winning cheeses.

It’s at this dinner that the 27 trophy winners will be announced. NZSCA is expecting more than 250 guests from around the country at the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards 2019, and tickets will be available to the public.