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International experts to judge NZ’s big cheeses

Master Judge Russell Smith

An unprecedented contingent of international experts has been announced as part of the judging team for the 2017 New Zealand Champions of Cheese Awards. The high-calibre panel includes influential buyers, renowned critics, book authors and specialty magazine writers from the USA, Switzerland, UK and Australia.

“The calibre of our judges this year is exceptional, in part due to the growing reputation for these awards, and New Zealand cheese around the world,” Master Judge Russell Smith, says. “We have eight phenomenal cheese judges joining 26 local experts, and collectively their wealth of knowledge is among the best in the award’s 15-year history. This provides an incredible opportunity to showcase New Zealand dairy on the world stage.”

The 2017 New Zealand Champions of Cheese Awards has attracted more than 350 entries across 23 categories. More than two tonnes of cheese will be judged over two days at the FoodBowl in Auckland on the weekend preceding the gala dinner on March 14.

This year has seen a surge in Italian-style cheeses and flavour-added cheeses, along with new cheesemakers and industry icons vying for accolades for their cheese, yoghurt and butter.

The public can also play a role in the judging, by casting their vote in the New World People’s Choice. To register your vote go to