With over 400 entries, a new milk type, three new international judges and five new cheese companies stepping into the ring, this year’s NZ Champions of Cheese Awards are set to be the most competitive yet.
Now in its eleventh year, the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards see our country’s finest speciality cheese come together under one roof, in the hope of winning one of 16 champion cheese titles.
New Zealand’s largest cheese exporters, our smallest artisan cheesemakers, and even home crafted cheeses, will be judged by an expert panel at The Langham in Auckland on Sunday 2nd March.
“The diversity in this year’s entries with five new companies, a new milk type and a record number of home crafted cheesemakers, are positive signs of a dynamic and vibrant New Zealand cheese industry that strengthens each year,” organiser of the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards, Vikki Lee Goode, said.
One of Australasia’s most experienced international cheese judges and renowned cheese educationalist, Russell Smith will be joined by three highly-regarded overseas cheese judges, adding another level of expertise and excitement to the awards.
Of particular note is Ueli Berger, the most awarded cheese maker in Australia and current head cheesemaker at beverage and food company, Lion.
“I regard Mr Berger as Australia’s most knowledgeable and skilled cheesemaker. He’s simply one of the best, and I personally am very excited to bring him to New Zealand to experience first-hand the top-rate cheese produced in this country,” Mr Smith said.
Master Judge Russell Smith will lead 28 expert assessors, including some of New Zealand’s most experienced cheese connoisseurs. Together they’ll consume and critique over 400 cheeses in search of the nation’s best.
Each cheese will be examined by a technical and an aesthetic judge as a duo, and strictly graded to pre-determined gold, silver and bronze standards.
Judges will also determine a champion cheese in 16 categories before selecting the two best overall cheeses to be named supreme winner of the Cuisine Champion Artisan Award for small artisan producers, and the Countdown Champion of Champions Award for larger producers.
The international trend of mixed milk cheese varieties remains, as well as a strong number of home crafted cheesemakers – a category that’s increasing in popularity each year.
For the first time in award history, cheese made from deer milk is being entered. Deer cheese was introduced last year as a collaboration between Whitestone Cheese alongside scientists at the University of Otago and Lincoln University, and drew interest of the feat of milking deer and the technical skill of turning deer milk into cheese.
Kiwi cheese lovers can also have their say with the New World Champion Favourite Cheese Award selected entirely by public votes through the New World website (www.newworldcheeseawards.co.nz). Voting is open now till 26th February.
The 2014 NZ Champions of Cheese Award winners will be announced at a gala dinner at The Langham in Auckland on Tuesday 4th March.
The following day (Wednesday 5th March) the public are invited to sample award-winning cheeses. Cuisine CheeseFest, billed as at the ultimate event for cheese lovers, takes place at The Langham from 5pm to 8:30pm. Tickets are available for $30 per person at www.eventfinder.co.nz or $35 at the door.