One of New Zealand’s best loved blue cheeses and a stunning Dutch Gouda have picked up the two supreme awards at this year’s Cuisine NZ Champions of Cheese Awards.
Kapiti Kikorangi, produced by Fonterra Brands NZ, won the Yealands Estate Champion of Champions Award for large cheesemakers, and Mercer 50/50 Gouda from Mercer Cheese has scooped the Cuisine Champion Artisan Award for smaller producers. These two supreme awards have equal status as the most prestigious awards for cheese excellence in New Zealand.

The 2011 Cuisine NZ Champions of Cheese Awards judging was lead for the third year by one of Australasia’s most respected cheese judges, Australian Russell Smith, who noted the extraordinary standard of local blue and Dutch cheeses.

“For me, the Dutch and Blue cheeses produced in New Zealand are always the most outstanding and that makes them a real challenge to judge,” says Smith. “This year, two exceptional cheeses have taken the top awards. This reaffirms just how good New Zealand is when it comes to producing blue and Dutch style cheeses.

“Kapiti Kikorangi has a superbly balanced flavour. It’s been brilliantly made to ensure the blue mould is evenly distributed throughout the cheese. The balance of acid and sweet has been mastered. Kikorangi presents a wonderful piquancy alongside a smooth creamy finish. It’s a stunning blue.”

This is the second year in a row a blue cheese has taken out the top award. Last year, Mainland Special Reserve Creamy Blue won the Champion of Champions Award. Both cheeses are made at Eltham by Fonterra Brands NZ.

Kikorangi, the Maori word for ‘blue’, was first introduced in the early nineties at a time when specialty cheeses were relatively new to New Zealand. As a very creamy blue cheese, it found immediate popularity and introduced many New Zealanders to the delights of blue cheese.

“New Zealand does blue cheese very well so there was a lot of competition however Kikorangi had the winning edge,” adds Smith.

The Cuisine Champion Artisan Award celebrates cheesemaking by companies that produce less than 20 tonnes of cheese each year. North Waikato’s Mercer Cheese is no stranger to award success after a double win in the 2009Cuisine Champion of Cheese Awards; Dutch immigrant Albert Alferink took home the Cheesemaker of the Year Award 2009 and the Champion of Champions Award for his Mercer Extra Mature Gouda with Cumin.

This year Mercer Cheese have won another supreme trophy with a cheese called 50/50, so named because it is an equal blend of cow and sheep milk Gouda.

“Mercer 50/50 Gouda’s spicy tangy notes perfectly compliment cheese,” says Smith. “The flavour is complex and well-balanced with a long finish. This is an outstanding farmhouse style Gouda made at the end of the season with late milk.”
Another Dutch cheese company also picked up a supreme award. The NZ Cheese School Champion Cheesemaker award was won by 27-year-old Miel Meyer, a second generation cheesemaker from Meyer Gouda Cheese in Hamilton.

2011 winners from other Cuisine Champions of Cheese categories were evenly spread amongst small artisan and larger producers. Organisers noted the growth in the number of entries for Halloumi, with Garlic Halloumi from Over the Moon Dairy Company picking up the top award in the QCONZ Champion European Style Cheese category out of many other European-inspired varieties.

Now in its eighth year, the 2011 Cuisine NZ Champions of Cheese Awards welcomed the greatest number of entries to date with 450 specimen cheeses judged in twenty different categories including hobbyist, best cheesemaker and best original. Winners were announced at an industry gala dinner on Tuesday 1 March, 2011 at The Langham, Auckland.

Cheese lovers eager to view, sample and buy the award winners and other 2011 entrants are encouraged to head to Monteith’s CheeseFest from 5-8pm on Wednesday 2 March at The Langham Hotel, Auckland. Tickets are available at the door from 4.30pm.

2011 Cuisine NZ Champions of Cheese Awards Winners:

Yealands Estate Champion of Champions Award
Kapiti Kikorangi – Fonterra Brands NZ

Cuisine Champion Artisan Cheese
Mercer 50/50 Gouda – Mercer Cheese

NZ Cheese School Champion Cheesemaker
Miel Meyer – Meyer Gouda Cheese

2011 Cuisine NZ Champions of Cheese Awards Category Winners:

The Langham Champion Fresh Unripened Cheese Award
Mt Crusader – Neudorf Dairy

Countdown Champion Feta Cheese Award
Salt of the Earth – Crescent Dairy Goats

Innovative Packaging Soft White Rind Cheese Award
Ornelle Camembert – Goodman Fielder

SGS New Zealand Champion Goat Cheese Award
Over the Moon Goat Curd – Over the Moon Dairy Company

Monteith’s Champion Sheep Cheese Award
Pecorino Mature – Matatoki Farm Cheese

NZ Labs Champion Washed Rind Cheese Award
Kapiti Ramara – Fonterra Brands NZ

Ecolab Champion Blue Cheese Award
Vintage Blue – Whitestone Cheese

QCONZ Champion European Style Cheese Award
Garlic Halloumi – Over the Moon Dairy Company

Bureau Veritas Champion Dutch Style Cheese Award
Sheep Gouda – Matatoki Farm Cheese

NZ Food Safety Authority Champion New Cheese Award
Kapiti Traditional Camembert – Fonterra Brands NZ

Fonterra Champion Original Cheese Award
Kapiti Kahurangi Creamy Blue – Fonterra Brands NZ

AsureQuality Champion Flavoured Cheese Award
Meyer Gouda Fenugreek – Meyer Gouda Cheese

GEON Champion Cheddar Cheese Award
Fonterra Edendale Cheddar – Fonterra Edendale
(aged up to 19 months)

Goodman Fielder Champion Export Cheese Award
Kapiti Kikorangi – Fonterra Brands NZ

New World Champion Favourite Cheese Award
Bouton d’Or Cow Feta – Goodman Fielder

NZSCA Cheese Packaging Award
Whitestone Selection Two Cheese Platter – Whitestone Cheese

Curds & Whey Champion Hobbyist Cheese
Mozzarella by Emilio Festa

Katherine Mowbray Champion Hobbyist Cheesemaker Award
Emilio Festa of Christchurch
Prepared on behalf of the NZ Specialist Cheesemakers Association by Goode PR, Auckland. For further information, images or interviews: please contact Belinda Abernethy ( ) on (09) 480 9948 / 021 509 062 or Sarah Moore ( ) on (09) 481 0962 / 021 680 340.


Media release – 02 Mar 2011

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