2019’s Champions of Cheese

Judges assess the cheeses.

The NZ Champions of Cheese Awards 2019 has awarded 223 medals to locally-made cheese, proving the quality of New Zealand speciality cheese continues to improve.

Organised by the New Zealand Specialist Cheesemakers Association, the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards has been run since 2003. The Bronze, Silver and Gold Medal winners have been announced today, with the Gold Medal winners vying for one of 26 cheese trophies, which will be announced in Hamilton in May.

NZSCA chair, Neil Willman said the panel of judges assessed the cheeses last month, awarding 97 gold medals, 99 silver medals and 27 bronze medals. The Association had reviewed entry criteria and the judging formula this year. However, even accounting for the changes in the judging process he said the judges all commented on the high standard of cheese being assessed.

While cheese across the board impressed, Master Judge Russell Smith of Australia made special note of the Fresh Italian Cheese category, which was introduced to judging for the first time this year.

“What was wonderful to see was that while well-known Italian favourites such as mozzarella, ricotta and mascarpone showed great cheesemaking technique so did other styles which are less familiar in New Zealand,” he said. “Not only was there a huge increase in the number of Italian-style cheese entered in the competition, importantly the quality was excellent too. The judges had a challenge picking the winners because the Italian cheeses were new, exciting and well-made.”

Twenty-one cheese experts assessed more than 280 entries to find New Zealand’s top cheese. The Awards also welcomed the return of butter and yoghurt for judging and also 20 cheeses made by dedicated home cheesemakers.

The NZ Champions of Cheese Trophies will be announced on Tuesday 21 May at a dinner at the Distinction Hamilton Hotel and Conference Centre. For a full list the New Zealand Champions of Cheese medal winners visit the NZSCA website https://nzsca.org.nz/winners/