Dutch influences have made their mark on New Zealand cheese, with three supreme awards at the 2014 NZ Champions of Cheese Awards directly related to a Dutch heritage.
A Dutch-style cheese made in Akaroa – Aged Gouda by Barrys Bay Traditional Cheese, has won the coveted Countdown Champion of Champions Award for large cheese producers.
Another Dutch-style cheese – Very Old Edam produced by Mahoe Farmhouse Cheese has won the Cuisine Champion Artisan Cheese Award for smaller producers for the third year running.
Completing the Dutch trio is Jeanne Van Kuyk of Aroha Organic Goat Cheese who won the Milk Test NZ Champion Cheesemaker Award. Her company also took out the Tuatara Brewing Champion Goat Cheese Award for its Aroha Raw Milk Rich Plain cheese. Emigrating from Holland, Van Kuyk now makes award-winning organic, specialty cheese from her own herd of goats on the family’s rural Waikato farm.
Over 430 New Zealand specialty cheeses were entered in this year’s competition, with winners announced at a gala dinner and awards ceremony at The Langham, Auckland on Tuesday 4 March.
Twenty eight of New Zealand’s most experienced cheese connoisseurs made up the expert judging panel. They were led by one of Australasia’s most experienced international cheese judges and renowned cheese educationalist, Russell Smith.
“New Zealand cheese ranks with the best in the world, with certain styles indisputably world-class,” Smith said.
“The diversity of flavour profiles, the quality of cheese making and high presentation of the majority of cheese was fantastic. It’s incredibly encouraging to see the bar being raised each year.”
Each cheese was examined by a technical and an aesthetic judge as a duo, and strictly graded to pre-determined gold, silver and bronze standards.
This year saw a higher percentage of gold medals being awarded, which attests to the increasingly high quality of cheese being made in New Zealand and exhibited this year, Smith said.
Barrys Bay Traditional Cheese, which produces traditional hand-crafted cheese including cheddar, gouda and maasdam, is celebrating its first Champion of Champions title.
Smith described Barrys Bay Traditional Cheeses’ Aged Gouda as beautifully presented with a superb texture and tropical fruit flavours. “This is a great example of this style of cheese and was the popular choice of the judging panel,” he said.
Kerikeri-based family business, Mahoe Farmhouse Cheese, has pulled off an impressive hat trick by winning the Cuisine Champion Artisan Cheese Award for the third year running.
Mahoe’s Very Old Edam was described by Smith as a superbly flavoursome cheese. “This cheese is so good that you don’t want to put anything else in your mouth for some time.”
Iconic Kiwi cheese brand Kapiti was also outstanding in their year’s NZ Champions of Cheese Awards. Kapiti cheeses scooped up more Champion awards than any other brand, taking home four major trophies. Kapiti Kikorangi once again proved New Zealanders’ affection towards blue cheese, claiming the New World Champion Favourite Cheese Award (voted for by the public) for the third year running.
“That our shoppers have once again chosen Kapiti Kikorangi must surely make this fine blue cheese a new New Zealand icon!,” Foodstuffs Delicatessen Sales & Operations Manager, Anthony Joseph, said.
New cheese company Dairyworks has marked its introduction to the awards with a win for its Dairyworks Kids Range in the Caspak Champion Cheese Packaging Award.
Smith said Dairyworks has done great job of encouraging kids to eat more cheese with its kids range. The use of story-telling and fun characters is a clever way to engage with young Kiwis. Judges noted the pack design is strong and production is consistent across every print process.
The cheese loving public are invited to sample the finest award-winning cheeses from the competition at Cuisine CheeseFest. Billed as the ultimate event for cheese lovers, Cuisine CheeseFest takes place at The Langham Auckland tomorrow (5 March), from 5pm to 8:30pm. Tickets are available for $30 per person at www.eventfinder.co.nz or $35 at the door.