Beware, cheese lovers. After two days spent savouring 420 entries, local and international experts have crowned Puhoi Valley Kawau Blue as Countdown Champion of Champions. The outstanding product, which was created by experienced Puhoi’s head cheesemaker Franck Beaurain, has also took out first place in the Ecolab Champion Blue Cheese category.
According to the judges, Beaurain’s has put his 30 years’ experience at work to create a cheese with ‘great rind development and superb even blue distribution’, as well as a creamy texture delivering ‘a great balance of spicy, savoury and sweet flavours.’
The product is available in restaurants as ‘Puhoi Kawau Blue’ and in supermarkets as ‘Puhoi Valley Gorgonzola Style Blue’.

Twenty-three category winners were revealed on Tuesday during a gala dinner held at The Langham. Jeanne van Kuyk from Aroha Organic Goat Cheese took home the Milk Test NZ Champion Cheesemaker Award, becoming the first female artisan cheesemaker to secure that title since the awards were launched nine years ago.

This year's winners are as follows:
Countdown Champion of Champions Cheese Award - Puhoi Valley Kawau Blue (Puhoi Valley Cheese)
Puhoi Valley Champion Artisan Cheese Award - Mercer Extra Mature Gouda (Mercer Cheese)
Milk Test NZ Champion Cheesemaker Award - Jeanne van Kuyk (Aroha Organic Goat Cheese)
Food for Chefs Champion Butter Award - Westgold Unsalted Butter (Westland Milk Products)
Green Valley Dairies Champion Yoghurt Award - Symbio Probalance Blueberry Wholegrain Yoghurt (Fonterra Brands NZ)
The Langham Champion Fresh Unripened Cheese Award - Over The Moon 'Volcano' (Over The Moon Dairy Company)
Kiwi Labels Champion Feta Cheese Award - Origin Earth Feta (Origin Earth)
Innovative Packaging Champion Soft White Rind Cheese Award - Grinning Gecko Brie (Grinning Gecko Cheese Co)
180 degrees Champion Goat Cheese Award - Aroha Raw Milk Jubilee (Aroha Organic Goat Company)
NZ Chefs Association Champion Sheep Cheese Award - Mercer Pecorino (Mercer Cheese)
Thermaflo Champion Washed Rind Cheese Award - Puhoi Valley Cellar Range Washed Rind (Puhoi Valley Cheese)
Ecolab Champion Blue Cheese Award - Puhoi Valley Kawau Blue (Puhoi Valley Cheese)
Eurofins NZ Champion European Style Cheese Award - Farmhouse Mature (Crescent Dairy Goats)
AsureQuality Champion Dutch Style Cheese Award - Meyer Tasty Gouda (Meyer Gouda Cheese)
Ministry for Primary Industries Champion New Cheese Award - Matariki (Wangapeka Family Dairy)
Primary ITO Aspiring Cheesemaker Award - Loran Mathis (Over The Moon Dairy Company)
Fonterra Co-operative Group Champion Original Cheese Award - Pumahana (Karikaas Natural Dairy Products)
Cheeselinks Champion Flavoured Cheese Award - Origin Earth Smoked Sheep Cheese (Origin Earth)
Tetra Pak Champion Cheddar Cheese Award - Kapiti Tuteremoana Cheddar (Fonterra Brands NZ)
Renco New Zealand Champion Export Cheese Award - Puhoi Valley Fresh Goat (Puhoi Valley Cheese)
New World Champion Favourite Cheese Award - Kapiti Kahurangi (Fonterra Brands NZ)
Caspak Champion Cheese Packaging Award - Dairyworks Grated Cheese range (Dairyworks)
Curds & Whey Champion Home Crafted Cheese & Cheesemaker - Sentry Hill Quark (Phillippa White)