After judging at the end of February the New Zealand Specialist Cheesemakers Association (NZSCA) has announced 254 medal winners in the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards 2022.
In what was a record for recent years entries were up 20 percent on 2021 – more than 380 cheeses were judged, with 76 Gold Medals, 120 Silver Medals and 58 Bronze Medals awarded.
Thirty-six judges led by Master Cheese Judge Jason Tarrant assessed the cheeses at WINTEC in Hamilton on Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 February 2022.
Jason Tarrant thanked the high calibre judging team, saying proof of their skill and understanding of NZ cheese was how aligned they were with all their assessments.
He noted many categories and cheeses delighted the judging panel. However, Jason said it would be remiss not to mention Belle Chevre Creamery, Raspberry Bonbons which was awarded a Gold Medal in the Big Chill Distribution Fresh Flavour Added Cheeses.
“Belle Chevre Creamery’s Raspberry Bonbons were so unexpected! Hats off to them for presenting a cheese with the wow factor. It was the perfect coming together of a cheesemaker and a chef, creating a goat cheese, raspberry and chocolate combo which delivered on flavour, presentation and innovation.”
Fresh Italian-style cheeses continue to go from strength to strength and the judges only had praise for the quality of cheese in this category. Jason says of particular note were Burratas, with one particularly memorable example from Massismo’s Italian Cheeses receiving a Gold Medal.
Entry numbers were up on the previous year in the Kiwi Labels Greek/Cypriot Style Cheese, much of which reflected increasing consumer demand for Halloumi, which as well as being delicious on its own, is a popular protein alternative.
Reviewing the medals Jason also noted cheddar was a standout category in 2022, with 10 Gold Medals awarded to NZ-made cheddar. “It’s a reflection of the quality of the inputs from premium, rich milk through to the cheesemaker’s skill and consistent cellaring.”
NZSCA Chair Catherine McNamara said the Association undertook significant safety planning ahead of the judging and was fortunate to judge just before the peak of the country’s Omicron outbreak.
“We again hosted the judging at the WINTEC Hospitality School. It’s a wonderful venue with lots of large, air conditioned spaces for judging and plenty of chiller space to ensure cheese is stored at the optimal temperature.”
Catherine McNamara said the Association had moved the announcement of the NZ Champions of Cheese Trophy Winners to Thursday 30 June, in the hope Covid Traffic Light settings would allow a dinner for up to 300 cheese industry professionals to celebrate the country’s finest cheese. This Gala Dinner is to be held at The Atrium, Hamilton.
She also thanked the family of sponsors, saying their support made hosting the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards possible.
The NZ Champions of Cheese 2022 Trophies being announced on Thursday 30 June are: