28 judges hunting out NZ’s finest cheeses

22 February, 2018 by
FMCG Business


For cheese lovers it would be a day in paradise, but it’s serious work for the 28 judges assessing more than 2000 kg of cheese for the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards at AUT School of Hospitality + Tourism this Saturday.


The judges, a panel of cheesemakers, chefs and food experts, operate under the guidance of Australian Master Judge Russell Smith, who is leading the judging for the final time. A regarded cheese judge on the world circuit, Russell Smith has made a significant contribution to the quality of New Zealand cheese by heading the judging panel for the past seven years. Smith is supported by Ross McCullum, founder of Kapiti Cheese and a Life Member of NZ Specialist Cheesemakers Association (NZSCA).

The NZ Champions of Cheese Awards is organised by the NZSCA which has run the awards since 2003. This is the 16th year of the award’s which celebrate New Zealand cheese, recognise excellence and educate consumers.

NZSCA Chair Miel Meyer says “As always our judging panel is exceptional, in part due to the growing reputation for these awards and local cheese. The NZ Champions of Cheese Awards are an incredible opportunity to showcase New Zealand cheese.”

“We’re also pleased to have introduced a new revitalized awards logo. From March, cheese lovers can look out for NZ Champion of Cheese stickers on award-winning cheeses. This is a guarantee of quality as judged by our experts.”

All cheese is judged blind, which means judges receive and taste cheese without any branding to prevent bias.

The numbers for judging at AUT School of Hospitality + Tourism on Saturday 24 February:

  • 2000 kg of New Zealand cheese will be judged
  • More than 300 different New Zealand cheeses
  • 22 trophy awards
  • 28 judges
  • 30 stewards
  • Three judging auditors

Cheese lovers have two opportunities to get involved. They can judge for themselves by voting for their favourite cheeses in the Cheese Lovers’ Choice Awards supported by New World http://www.newworld.co.nz/cheese-awards/ or on Facebook @CheeseLoversNZ.

Cheese lovers living in the Auckland region will have the chance to enjoy NZ Specialist Cheese Mystery Boxes. For the first time, cheese from the judging will be sold in NZ Specialist Cheese Mystery Boxes. These special cheese lovers treats will each contain at least five pieces of New Zealand cheese and a box of 180 Degree oat crackers. The 1.5 kg boxes, which are $50, will be available exclusively through the Clevedon Farmers’ Market and The Dairy in Ponsonby from Sunday 4 March.

Additional cheese leftover from judging will be donated to Auckland City Mission Community Link Organisations, Everybody Eats and Eat My Lunch.

WHAT                    Judging more than 300 New Zealand cheeses

WHEN                   From 8am – 2pm, Saturday 24 February 2018

WHERE                 Piko Café and Four Seasons Restaurant, AUT, 55 Wellesley St East, Auckland

WHO                      Australian Master Judge Russell Smith and New Zealand cheese


Countdown Champion of Champions Cheese Award – Commercial

Puhoi Valley Champion of Champions Cheese Award – Artisan

Milk Test NZ Champion Cheesemaker Award

New World Cheese Lovers’ Choice Award

Cheese Lovers’ Choice Favourite NZ Cheese Company Award in association with New World

Green Valley Dairies Champion Fresh Un-Ripened Cheese Award

Kiwi Labels Champion Feta Cheese Award

CHR Hansen Champion Soft White Rind Cheese Award

180 degrees Champion Goat Cheese Award

Sheep Milk NZ Champion Sheep Cheese Award

Thermaflo Champion Washed Rind Cheese Award

Ecolab Champion Blue Cheese Award

Eurofins NZ Champion European Style Cheese Award

AsureQuality Champion Dutch Style Cheese Award

Ministry for Primary Industries Champion New Cheese Award

Fonterra Co-operative Group Champion Original Cheese Award

Tetra Pak Champion Cheddar Cheese Award

Emerson’s Farmhouse Cheese Category

Martinborough Vineyard Champion Flavoured Cheese Award

Renco New Zealand Champion Export Cheese Award

AUT School of Hospitality + Tourism Aspiring Cheesemaker

Cas-Pak Products Ltd Champion Cheese Packaging Award

Curds & Whey Champion Home Crafted Cheese & Cheesemaker