(Auckland Thursday 20 February 2020) An esteemed judging panel will taste, smell and crumble their way through more than 300 New Zealand cheeses on Sunday as they hunt for the winners of the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards 2020.

For the first time in the Awards 17 year history, the panel – led by Australian Master Judge Russell Smith – will be looking for three Supreme Champions. The change ensures the Awards represent the all the country’s cheesemakers from boutique producers through to the very large cheese companies and producers in between.

Master Judge Russell Smith who judges throughout the world is overseeing the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards for the 12th consecutive year and will assist a panel of 23 judges. The Awards, run by the New Zealand Specialist Cheesemakers Association (NZSCA), will be judged on Saturday 22 February for yoghurt and butter and Sunday 23 February for cheese.

The NZ Champions of Cheese Awards are not just for professional judges, cheese lovers from across the country are being called on to be part of the Awards too. Foodies are asked to nominate their favourite place to buy New Zealand cheese. The 180 degrees Favourite NZ Specialty Cheese Shopping Experience recognises the supermarket, specialty food store, farmers’ market or cheese shop which provides amazing service for those buying New Zealand cheese. Stores which receive the most votes will be assessed by a specialist panel of judges and one will be named 180 degrees Favourite NZ Specialty Cheese Shopping Experience at the Awards ceremony in May.

A new addition for 2020 Awards is the Ignite Colleges Chefs’ Choice in which cheesemakers submit  a cheese of their choice which showcase their skill to be assessed exclusively by a specially convened panel of award-winning chefs. Hallertau Head Chef, Drew Lautenbach; CordisExecutive Chef, Volker Marecek​ and Ignite Colleges and NZ Chefs Auckland Branch President Jasbir Kaur, will be assessing the cheese with a view to choosing a winner whose cheese will wow restaurant and café diners.

NZSCA chair Neil Willman said a significant change for 2020 is judging of the Champion Cheesemaker. “Cheesemakers now enter three styles of cheeses which will be assessed as one entry. The winner will be the cheesemaker who receives the highest aggregate score across their three cheeses,”. Additionally in 2020 a Greek/Cypriot Cheese Category has replaced what was formerly known as the Feta Category and the Cheddar Category has been split into two sub categories, Bulk and Retail Cheddar.

Mr Willman made special mention of the industry partners who make the Awards possible with their support.

Following judging at Ignite Colleges, Manukau medal winners will be announced in March. The announcement of Trophy Winners will be at a four-course gala dinner – featuring a selection of winning cheeses – at SkyCity Hamilton on Wednesday 6 May 2020. NZSCA is expecting 300 guests from throughout the country at the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards 2020.

The NZ Champions of Cheese 2020 Supreme Champion awards are:

  • Countdown Champion of Champions (Commercial)
  • New World Champion of Champions (Mid-sized)
  • Puhoi Valley Champion of Champions (Boutique)

The NZ Champions of Cheese 2020 Trophies are:

  • Fonterra Co-operative Group Champion Original Cheese
  • New Zealand Food Safety Champion New Cheese
  • ECOLAB Champion Blue Cheese
  • Milk Test NZ Champion Cheesemaker
  • Dupont Danisco Champion Fresh Unripened Cheese
  • Kiwi Labels Champion Greek/Cypriot Cheese
  • CHR Hansen Champion Soft White Rind Cheese
  • AsureQuality Champion Dutch Style Cheese
  • NZSCA Champion Retail Cheddar Cheese
  • NZSCA Champion Bulk Cheddar Cheese
  • Cheeselinks Champion Fresh Italian Style Cheese
  • Big Chill Distribution Champion Flavoured Cheese
  • Sabato Champion Farmhouse Cheese
  • Thermaflo Champion Washed Rind Cheese
  • Delta Wines Champion European Style Cheese
  • Dish magazine Champion Sheep Cheese
  • Renco New Zealand Champion Export Cheese
  • Good George Brewing Champion Goat Cheese
  • Curds & Whey Champion Homecrafted Cheese and Cheesemaker

The NZ Champions of Cheese 2020 Special Awards are:

  • New World Cheese Lovers’ Choice
  • Ignite Colleges Chefs’ Choice
  • 180 degrees Favourite NZ Specialty Cheese Shopping Experience
  • Innovative Packaging Champion Butter
  • NZSCA Champion Yoghurt

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