As sales figures show Kiwis are enjoying more cheese during lockdown, the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards is pleased to announce its 2020 trophy winners – the best of New Zealand made cheese.
Run by the New Zealand Specialist Cheesemakers Association (NZSCA) for the 17th consecutive year, Australian Master Judge, Russell Smith, oversaw judging pre-lockdown on Sunday 23 February, working with a panel of 25 specialist judges.
Covid-19 prevented the planned Gala Awards Dinner so the Trophy winners were announced on the Association’s Facebook page @CheeseloversNZ at 4 pm on Wednesday 6 July. NZSCA chair Neil Willman said for the first time the judges were looking for three Supreme Champions to recognise the scale and diversity of the New Zealand cheese industry from large global players through to medium-sized and boutique cheese producers.
Of the 2020 Awards, NZSCA Chair, Neil Willman said, “It was very pleasing to see cheesemakers have responded to changes in the awards with increased entries this year. The new Chefs’ Choice award attracted around 30 entries. Additionally there is much anticipation about the winners of the expanded Champions of Champions awards, this year for the first time we’re thrilled to name three winners from very small, medium and large producers – a true reflection of the diversity of the New Zealand cheesemaking industry.”
“It’s also pleasing to see the cheese sales growth through supermarkets during lockdown. However, some smaller producers have had their sales severely reduced. As lockdown eases I urge all New Zealanders to show them support and buy New Zealand cheese!”
The 2020 NZ Champions of Cheese Awards Supreme Champions are; Countdown Champion of Champions Commercial Cheese; Fonterra Brands (NZ), Kāpiti Awa Blue; New World Champion of Champions Cheese from a Medium-sized Producer; Meyer Cheese, Meyer Goat’s Milk Gouda and Puhoi Valley Champion of Champions Boutique Cheese; The Drunken Nanny Ltd, The Drunken Nanny Black Tie.
Kāpiti Awa Blue is a regular NZ Champions of Cheese award winner, cementing its place as a premium New Zealand cheese. Awa Blue is Kāpiti’s strongest blue and has a sharp, salty, blue flavour. This sharp flavour is created by using a little less cream which ensures the cheese delivers a bold punch with a moist, crumbly body. While Kapiti has expanded its range since it was established, its commitment to excellence remains, proven by its long history of accolades from the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards.
Meyer Cheese is no stranger to the Supreme Champion awards – having been named a Supreme Champion on multiple occasions. Meyer Cheese is family affair, after being established in Waikato in 1976 by Fieke and Ben Meyer, it now run by their sons; Miel as general manager and Geert as head cheesemaker. Geert was named NZ Champion Cheesemaker in 2018 and 2019. Meyer Goat’s Milk Gouda is made with 100% goat’s milk giving it a sweet flavour and creamy texture.
All The Drunken Nanny’s fresh goat cheeses are made on the Goodman family farm 16km south of Martinborough. They’ve hand-selected, bred and raised the herd of dairy goats whose milk goes into making The Drunken Nanny’s cheeses. All their milking is on site, and the cheese is made daily in their purpose-built cheese room alongside the milking stand. The Black Tie is a pyramid shaped fresh goat cheese, coated with a sprinkle of black ash, from burnt grape vines imported from France.
A significant change for 2020 Awards was judging of the Champion Cheesemaker, now cheesemakers enter three styles of cheese which are assessed as one entry. The winner is the cheesemaker who receives the highest aggregate score across their three cheeses. The MilkTestNZ Champion Cheesemaker is Sam Pokaitara from Fonterra Co-operative Group. Sam is employed at Fonterra Lichfield in South Waikato. He’s worked there for 14 years.
For the first time in 2020 the Ignite Colleges Chefs’ Choice was introduced. Chefs; Jasbir Kaur of Ignite Colleges, Hallertau Brewery head chef Drew Lautenbach and Cordis Hotel executive chef Volker Marecek, tasted around 30 cheeses assessing them for flavour and suitably and uses in cooking. The inaugural Ignite Colleges Chefs’ Choice winner was Mercer Cheese, Mercer Fifty Fifty. This unique cheese, made by Albert Alferink in Onewhero near Hamilton, is a blend of cow and sheep milk and is the first of its kind in New Zealand.
The full list of NZ Champions of Cheese 2020 Trophy Winners follows.
NZ Champions of Cheese 2020 Supreme Awards are:
NZ Champions of Cheese 2020 Category Trophies are:
The NZ Champions of Cheese 2020 Special Awards are:
Due to the Covid-19 lockdown the New World Cheese Lovers’ Choice Award will be voted by cheese lovers later in the year. As the 180 degrees Favourite NZ Specialty Cheese Shopping Experience requires mystery shopping, judging will occur after lockdown and the winner will be announced during New Zealand Cheese Month in October.
Dish magazine will include a NZ Cheese Guide in its June/July issue on sale 22 June which will include all the Trophy and Gold Medal winners and a guide to where to find and buy New Zealand’s award-winning cheese producers and their cheeses.
NZSCA wish to make special acknowledgement of the tremendous support received from their Awards sponsors despite the challenging circumstances created by Covid-19.
 According to Nielsen Connect, Executive Director, Lance Dobson cheese sales in grocery for the six weeks to 5 April were up 25.8%.