A herd of just 20 goats has produced New Zealand’s finest cheese.
Crescent Dairy Goats Old Gold was named Saint Clair Champion of Champions Cheese at the Cuisine NZ Champion Cheese Awards gala dinner held in Auckland this evening (March 6).
Jan and John Walter’s goats in Albany, on Auckland’s North Shore, “keep city hours”, says Jan. “I milk them daily at 8.30am.”
In true cottage-industry style, she then pasteurises 16 litres of the morning milk, which is sweeter than milk given later in the day, on her kitchen stove before making it into 2kg of hand-crafted cheese.
The Walters bought their 3ha property when they left teaching in 1979, originally buying goats to provide them with milk.
Jan Walter won the “best new cheese” prize in the 2000 NZ Champion of Cheese Awards. Since then she has collected 25 gold medals, 16 silver medals, six bronze medals and eight category trophies, topping off her winning run with this year’s supreme award.
This year’s championship cheese “Old Gold”, which also won the Fonterra Champion Original NZ Cheese prize, stood out from all the others said awards judge and Cuisine food writer Fiona Smith.
“Crescent Dairy Goats manage to get a very subtle and mild flavour out of their cheeses, which is universally popular.
“They know everything that goes into that cheese, from what their goats are eating, to how they are milking the goats. They have control of the beginning of the process right through and the quality shines through.”
In another coup, Dave Newton of Fonterra’s blue cheesemaking team in Eltham won the Hospitality Magazine Champion Cheesemaker Award after scoring a perfect 100 for three of his cheeses.
Dave Newton took the prize for the top blue cheese (the Hally Labels Champion Blue Cheese Award) with one of his perfect trio – Galaxy Creamy Blue. His other top-scoring cheeses were Mainland Special Reserve Creamy Blue and Ferndale Shades of Blue.
As a key member of the blue cheesemaking team, he handcrafts the cheeses and monitors their development for up to eight weeks. In a true family effort, his sister Karen and brother Howie also work in the same cheesemaking team.
Producing three such high-quality cheeses in one year was “quite remarkable” said lead judge and US cheese connoisseur John Greeley. He knew of no other cheesemakers anywhere in the world who had achieved such a feat.
“I think it’s an understatement to say it’s wonderful and excellent on the part of the cheesemaker. I think the judges were quite challenged to realise this was happening.”
John Greeley said he was consistently impressed by the quality of New Zealand’s blue cheeses. “For the past four years I’ve been championing the wonderful quality of blue cheeses in New Zealand and I comment on it everywhere I go.”
While it would be difficult to compete with the ancient, established blue cheese of Europe, New Zealand’s cheeses stood out for one particular reason – the sheer variety of styles.
European countries tended to produce just one variety of blue cheese each, while New Zealand produced many. “All the blue cheeses need to be enjoyed to understand what New Zealand has to offer.”
He was also impressed by improvements in the quality of self-ripened white cheeses, fresh unripened cheeses and feta cheeses.
And while there was an abundance of small, artisan cheesemakers, the cheeses created by large producers such as Fonterra were also of a very high quality, he said. For example, Fonterra’s export cheddar, which had only just started selling in the United States, had a “tremendous complexity”.
Fonterra Hautapu Cheddar was named as New Zealand Trade and Enterprise Champion Export Cheese and another Fonterra cheddar from Waitoa was awarded the Hally Labels Champion Cheddar Cheese.
Judges awarded 39 gold medals – given for a score between 96 and 100 – at this year’s awards, which attracted entries from 459 cheeses. They also awarded 69 silver medals and 101 bronze medals.
Winners – Cuisine Champions of Cheese Awards 2007:
Saint Clair Champion of Champions
Old Gold – Crescent Dairy Goats
New World Champion Fresh Unripened Cheese
Tararua Lite Crème Fraiche – Goodman Fielder
Hyatt Regency Auckland Champion Feta Cheese
Hohepa Feta – Hohepa Farms
Innovative Packaging Champion Soft White Rind Cheese
Bouton d’or Mini Brie – Puhoi Valley Cheese
Champion Goat Cheese
Aroha Pepperazzi – Aroha Organic Goat Cheese
Champion Sheep Cheese
Whitestone Island Stream – Whitestone Cheese
Ecolab Champion Washed Rind Cheese
Neudorf Richmond Red – Neudorf Dairy
Hally Labels Champion Cheddar Cheese
Fonterra Waitoa Cheddar
Foodtown Champion European Style Cheese
Ferndale Raclette – Fonterra Brands NZ
Arnott’s Cheeseboard Champion Dutch Style Cheese
Edam – Karikaas Cheese
Champion New Cheese
Aroha Pepperazzi – Aroha Organic Goats Cheese
Fonterra Champion Original NZ Cheese
Old Gold – Crescent Dairy Goats
Champion Flavoured Cheese
Zefatit with Dill and Garlic – Canaan Cheeses
Hally Labels Champion Blue Cheese
Galaxy Creamy Blue – Fonterra Brand NZ
New Zealand Trade and Enterprise Champion Export Cheese
Fonterra Hautapu Cheddar
New World Champion Favourite Cheese
Waimata Camembert – Waimata Cheese Company
Curious Design Champion Cheese Packaging
Whitestone Marinated Feta
Taylor’s Port Champion Cheeseboard
The Gondola’s Pinnacle Restaurant
Curds & Whey Champion Hobbyist Cheese
Katherine Mowbray Champion Hobbyist Cheesemaker
Hospitality Magazine Champion Cheesemaker
Dave Newton, cheesemaker at Fonterra Eltham
The Cuisine NZ Champions of Cheese Awards was launched in 2004 by the New Zealand Specialist Cheesemakers Association Inc.
Prepared on behalf of the NZ Specialist Cheesemakers Association by Goode PR, Auckland.
For further information, images or interviews: please contact Vikki Lee Goode on 09 480 9948 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Connie Clarkson on 09 480 9948, 021 646 140 or email email@example.comPhotographs of the Saint Clair Champion of Champions Cheese winner are available on request.
Media release – 06 Mar 2007