Monday, April 22, 2024

Meet NZ’s really big cheeses

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Judges award 187 medals to country’s finest cheesemakers in countdown to trophy night.
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After checking, sniffing and tasting more than 250 locally produced cheeses, New Zealand Champions of Cheese judges have awarded 187 medals to the best in the land.

Assessment was conducted at Hamilton’s Wintec Te Pūkenga in early March with Master Judge Jason Tarrant guiding 30 judges through an evaluation of 253 NZ-made cheeses.

Tarrant said the intense judgment affirmed the exceptional quality of locally made cheese.

“This is the 21st year of the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards and competition continues recognise  the ingenuity, passion, and dedication of Kiwi cheesemakers. 

“The 72 gold, 71 silver and 44 bronze medals are a testament to their relentless pursuit of perfection, sparing no effort to craft cheeses that rival the finest in the world,” he said.

The 2024 NZ Champions of Cheese Awards trophy winners will be announced at the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards Gala Dinner in Hamilton on May 2. 

The judges – a mix of industry professionals including cheesemakers, cheese retailers, food technologists, and food writers – worked across 20 categories. 

Among the standouts were some amazing goat, sheep, and buffalo milk cheeses competing for the inaugural Best in Class Award.

For the first time, cheddar was judged in three distinct age groups, which allowed the depth of flavour and complexity – achieved by ageing or cellaring cheddar – to stand on its own.

New Zealand Specialist Cheesemakers Association chair Simon Lamb thanked all the volunteer judges and stewards whose expertise made the awards possible.

He noted the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards medal announcement was a timely focus on NZ-made cheese, coming in the week after the government endorsed legislation to allow free trade with the EU. Cheesemakers are concerned this will enable low-cost subsidised cheese to undercut locally made product.

He said winning NZ Champions of Cheese medals is one way local cheesemakers can stand proud and receive recognition for the world-class cheese they make.

 “Like many Kiwis, cheesemakers are finding business conditions tough. Over the past 18 months several boutique cheese companies have shut down their businesses. We’re pleased to host the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards which provide an opportunity to stop and celebrate cheesemakers’ endeavour,” Lamb said.

NZ Champions of Cheese Awards 2024 medal winners are listed on and

 The 2024 NZ Champions of Cheese Awards trophy winners will be announced at the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards Gala Dinner in Hamilton on May 2.

The NZ Champions of Cheese 2024 winners are:

Woolworths –  Champion of Champions (Commercial). NZSCA –  Champion of Champions (Mid-sized). Puhoi Valley –  Champion of Champions (Boutique). MilkTestNZ –  Champion Cheesemaker. Fonterra Co-operative Group –  Champion Original Cheese. ECOLAB –  Champion Blue Cheese. NZSCA –  Champion New Cheese. CHR Hansen –  Champion Soft White Rind Cheese. Dish magazine –  Champion Greek-Style or Danish-Style Cheese. Cheeselinks –  Champion Fresh Italian-Style Cheese. Wintec Te Pūkenga –  Champion Fresh Unripened Cheese. AsureQuality –  Champion Dutch-Style Cheese. IXOM –  Champion European-Style Cheese. IFF –  Champion Farmhouse Cheese.  Thermaflo –  Champion Washed Rind Cheese. NZSCA –  Champion Aged Flavoured Added Cheese. Big Chill Distribution –  Champion Fresh Flavoured Added Cheese. Tetra Pak –  Champion Retail Cheddar Cheese. SEE –  Champion Bulk Cheddar Cheese. OJI Fibre Solutions –  Best in Class Goats’ Milk Cheese. Sabato –  Best in Class Sheep Milk Cheese. Innovative Packaging –  Best in Class Buffalo Milk Cheese. Dominion Salt –  Champion Export Cheese.

 Special Awards

NZSCA –  Chefs’ Choice. Woolworths –  Sustainability Award. Curds & Whey –  Amateur Cheesemaker

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