Four hundred of the country’s finest specialty cheeses will compete for the title of New Zealand’s best cheese in this year’s Cuisine NZ Champions of Cheese Awards in early March.

The only national competition of its kind in New Zealand, the Cuisine NZ Champions of Cheese Awards recognise and showcase the crème de la crème of the cheesemaking industry. The winner’s will be announced at a gala dinner at SKYCITY on Tuesday 4 March.

Now in their fifth year, the awards have attracted a diverse range of entrants this year and more entries from smaller producers than ever before. This includes four exciting newcomers from around the country, including Kaimai Cheeses in Waharoa and the award’s first fresh buffalo milk cheese. In addition a number of cheese producers have entered the awards after an absence of a few years.

Headed by Master Judge Neil Willman, a group of 26 judges representing a cross-section of industry experts will scrutinise all of the 400 entries on Sunday 2 March at Massey University, Albany. The judges will be looking for features such as aroma, flavour, texture and body, from both technical and aesthetic perspectives.

Cheeses will be awarded in 20 categories covering all types of milk and cheese types as well as awards for best cheesemaker and best hobbyist cheesemaker. These are fresh unripened, feta, soft white rind, washed rind, blue, European style, Dutch Style, flavoured and cheddar cheese.

The ultimate accolade, the Taylor’s Port Champion of Champions Cheese 2008, New Zealand’s best cheese, will then be selected. NZ’s favourite cheese will be determined by supermarket sales while an expert design panel will judge the best packaging for NZ cheese.

One of the new additions for this year’s awards is the new Cuisine Artisan Award. This award has been added to recognise this ever-increasing group of small, artisan producers springing up around the country who are producing 10 tonnes of cheese or less per annum.

The public will get a chance to taste all of the 400 entries at CheeseFest on March 5. This exciting event will be held at the SKYCITY Convention Centre from 5-8pm on Wednesday March 5th 2008. For a modest fee of $35, CheeseFest attendees will be able to sample over 400 of NZs finest specialty cheeses from the awards accompanied by a complimentary glass of wine and a glass of Taylor’s Port.

Editor’s Note:
Master Judge Neil Willman Profile

Australian Master Cheesemaker and Cheese Grader Neil Willman has been appointed the new Master Judge for the 2008 Cuisine NZ Champions of Cheese Awards. Willman is Australia’s only fulltime cheese educator and trainer and has, for 26 years, been responsible for all the cheese education and training programmes at Gilbert Chandler College, Australia’s only dedicated dairy college.

He has been an international judge at the World Championship Cheese Contest and the British Cheese Awards, as well as at previous Cuisine NZ Champions of Cheese Awards. Willman has also been chief judge at the Australian Grand Dairy Awards, the Royal Sydney Easter Show, CheeseFest in Adelaide, and the Dairy Industry Association of Australia National Dairy Product Competition.

Neil will be in New Zealand from Saturday 1 March to Saturday 8 March for judging and is available for interviews.

Cuisine NZ Champion Cheese Awards 2008 categories:

  1. SKYCITY Champion Fresh Unripened Cheese Award
  2. NZ Cheese School Champion Feta Cheese Award
  3. Innovative Packaging Soft White Rind Cheese Award
  4. NZSCA Champion Goat Cheese Award
  5. Massey University Champion Sheep Cheese Award
  6. New World Champion Washed Rind Cheese Award
  7. Ecolab Champion Blue Cheese Award
  8. Foodtown Woolworths Champion European Style Cheese Award
  9. Foodtown Woolworths Champion Dutch Style Cheese Award
  10. NZ Food Safety Authority Champion New Cheese Award
  11. Fonterra Champion Original Cheese Award
  12. Hally Labels Champion Flavoured Cheese Award
  13. Hally Labels Champion Cheddar Cheese Award
  14. New Zealand Trade & Enterprise Champion Export Cheese Award
  15. New World Champion Favourite Cheese Award
  16. Curious Design Cheese Packaging Award
  17. Curds & Whey Champion Hobbyist Cheese
  18. Katherine Mowbray Champion Hobbyist Cheesemaker Award
  19. Hospitality Magazine Champion Cheesemaker
  20. Cuisine Champion Artisan Cheese
  21. Taylor’s Port Champion of Champions Award


Prepared on behalf of the NZ Specialist Cheesemakers Association by Goode PR, Auckland. For further information, images or to organise interviews with the Master Judge, New Zealand Specialist Cheesemakers Association, entrants or winners please contact Petra Milhaljevich on 09 480 9948 or email

Media release – 01 Feb 2008

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