It’s another stellar year for the “Dutchies” securing all three supreme titles at the 2015 New Zealand Champions of Cheese Awards.
This is the third consecutive year that the self-titled “Dutchies”, or Dutch-style cheesemakers, have scooped top honours, with Master Judge Russell Smith saying Dutch-style cheese is “as good as it gets anywhere in the world”.
The fiercely sought-after Countdown Champion of Champions Cheese Award for large cheese producers was won by a Dutch-style cheese made in the Bay of Islands – Very Old Edam by Mahoe Farmhouse Cheese.
A Dutch hand has also created the best Artisan cheese in the land. Mercer Cheese (lead by cheesemaker Albert Alferink) has won the Puhoi Valley Champion Artisan Cheese Award for its Mercer Mature Cumin.
Completing the Dutch trifecta is Miel Meyer, of Meyer Gouda Cheese, winning the Milktest NZ Champion Cheesemaker Award for second time in the awards’ history.
Master Judge Russell Smith said he has always regarded Dutch-style cheese made in New Zealand as world-class and this year’s result is no exception. “One of the most striking things about specialty New Zealand cheese is the exceptional quality of Dutch-style cheese.
“The continuity of Dutch families making cheese in New Zealand has, without doubt, resulted in world-class cheese being produced year after year,” Smith said.
The 2015 competition was one of the toughest yet with over 470 specialty cheeses, yoghurts and butters entered. Winners were announced at a gala dinner and awards ceremony at The Langham, Auckland on Tuesday 17 March.
Thirty one of New Zealand’s most experienced dairy connoisseurs, including top international critics, made up the judging panel. They were lead by Smith, one Australasia’s most experienced international cheese judges.
Mahoe Farmhouse Cheese has continually been a strong contender in the awards with three consecutive wins the Champion Artisan Award category. The company has now grown production to more than 25 tonnes of cheese a year, and has proven it can hold its own against the biggest producers in the country, winning the Countdown Champion of Champions Award for its Very Old Edam.
“This cheese exhibits the best characters of its class. The flavour just lingers and lingers on the palate finishing with hints of apricot,” Smith said.
“This is a truly exceptional world class cheese.”
Mercer Cheese also has a long history of award success with its gouda reaping accolades since its first Champion Dutch Style Cheese Award in 2008. This is the second time that Mercer Cheese has won the coveted Champion Artisan Cheese Award.
Puhoi Valley Champion Artisan Cheese Award winner, Mercer Mature Cumin was described by Smith as a beautifully crafted Dutch-style cheese. “This has a superb balance between background cheese flavours and cumin seed, adding a gorgeous spicy flavour.”
Another consistent standout is Meyer Gouda Cheese with head cheesemaker Miel Meyer taking out the Milktest Champion Cheesemaker Award. As a second generation cheesemaker, Meyer impressed judges with his “meticulous attention to detail and impressive dedication to his craft”.
Meyer Gouda Cheese also won the Crossroads Wines Champion Flavoured Cheese Award for its Meyer Smoked Gouda.
This year marked the addition of yoghurt and butter categories, acknowledging the importance of these dairy products alongside cheese in retail chillers. With a strong history in the awards Clevedon Valley Buffalo Company picked up the first ever Green Valley Dairies Champion Yoghurt Award for its Buffalo Boysenberry Yoghurt.
“This yoghurt, with good acid development, is nicely complimented with the boysenberry flavour. The sugar level is low enough that the fruit flavour can really shine. This ensures a clean, berry flavor,” Smith said.
Clevedon Valley Buffalo Company also won the Epic Brewing Champion Export Cheese Award for its Clevedon Valley Buffalo Mozzarella.
Lewis Road Creamery took home the Food for Chef’s Champion Butter Award for its Premium Butter, lightly salted, with high praise from the judges. “This perfectly churned lightly salted butter is superb. This is butter at its best!”
The cheese loving public also had their say voting blue cheese Kapiti Kahurangi as the New World Champion Favourite Cheese Award.
Each entry was examined by a technical and an aesthetic judge as a duo, and strictly graded to gold, silver and bronze standards.
The public is invited to sample award-winning cheeses as part of the awards programme, and to meet the cheesemakers who produce them. MiNDFOOD CheeseFest, billed as at the ultimate event for cheese lovers, takes place at The Langham, Wednesday 18 March from 5pm to 8:30pm. Tickets are available for $30 per person at www.eventfinder.co.nz or $35 at the door.