After judges smelled, crumbled and tasted their way through almost 300 New Zealand cheeses, the medal winners of the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards 2020 have been announced.

Run by the New Zealand Specialist Cheesemakers Association (NZSCA) for the 17th consecutive year, Australian Master Judge Russell Smith oversaw judging on Sunday 23rd February, working with a panel of 25 specialist judges.

NZSCA chair Neil Willman said the judges made special note of the quality and variety of cheese they assessed this year. He said changes to the way the Sabato Farmhouse Cheese and the Milk Test NZ Champion Cheesemaker were judged led to more premium quality entries. The inaugural ‘Ignite Colleges Chefs’ Choice’ received more than 30 different entries representing a broad variety cheese types.

Particularly impressive this year was the number of cheeses assessed for ‘Big Chill Distribution Flavoured Cheese’ category. Retailers report double digit growth in flavoured cheese sales and kiwi cheesemakers are meeting this growing demand. Twenty six cheeses received medals in this category – with nine receiving gold, eight collecting silver and the final nine receiving bronze. Flavours included distinctively New Zealand combinations like; Barrys Bay Coldsmoked Manuka Havarti, innovations such as Gibbston Valley’s Sheep Cumin and global flavour favourites like; Clevedon Buffalo Garlic and Thyme Marinated Cheese and Meyer Cheese Garlic & Chives.

Italian style cheeses continue their popularity with cheese lovers and cheesemakers alike. The quality in the ‘Cheeselinks Fresh Italian Style Cheese’ category was recognised with the judges awarding 21 medals – the highest number in the gold and silver medal categories with eight and 10 respectively.

For the first time the judges were looking for three Supreme Champions. These champions and the other ‘NZ Champions of Cheese’ trophy winners will be announced at a four course gala dinner – featuring a selection of winning cheeses – at SkyCity Hamilton on Wednesday 6th May 2020. NZSCA is expecting 300 guests from throughout the country.

Kiwi cheese lovers are being called on to be part of the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards too. Foodies are asked to nominate their favourite place to buy New Zealand cheese in the 180 degrees Favourite NZ Specialty Cheese Shopping Experience. This award recognises the supermarket, specialty food store, farmers’ market or cheese shop which provides amazing service for those buying New Zealand cheese. Stores which receive the most votes will be assessed by a specialist panel of judges and one will be named ‘180 degrees Favourite NZ Specialty Cheese Shopping Experience’ at the Awards ceremony in May.

NZ Champions of Cheese Awards 2020 –  Gold Medal Winners

Fonterra Co-operative Group Original Cheese
Fonterra Brands (NZ), Kapiti Awa Blue
Mercer Cheese, Mercer Fifty Fifty
Mercer Cheese, New Zealand Bush

ECOLAB Blue Cheese
Barrys Bay Cheese, Barrys Bay Peninsula Blue
Fonterra Brands (NZ), Kapiti Kikorangi
Fonterra Brands (NZ), Kapiti Kahurangi
Mahoe Cheese, Mahoe Farmhouse Blue
Puhoi Valley Cheese, Puhoi Pakiri Beach Blue

NZ Food Safety New Cheese
Nieuwenhuis Farmstead Cheese, Nieuwenhuis Farmstead Moonstone

CHR Hansen Soft White Rind Cheese
Fonterra Brands (NZ), Kapiti Kahikatea Camembert 125g
Thorvald, Thorvald Little River Brie
Grinning Gecko Cheese Company, Grinning Gecko Camembert

Kiwi Labels Greek/Cypriot Cheese
Clevedon Buffalo Co, Clevedon Buffalo Feta
Fonterra Brands (NZ), Mainland Crumbly Feta
Waimata Cheese, Waimata Cracked Pepper Haloumi

Cheeselinks Fresh Italian Style Cheese
Clevedon Buffalo Co, Clevedon Buffalo Oaxaca
Massimo’s Italian Cheeses,Burrata
Massimo’s Italian Cheeses, Ricotta
Massimo’s Italian Cheeses, Smoked Scamorza
Viavio Cheese, ViaVio Mozzarella
Viavio Cheese, ViaVio Burrata
ViaVio Cheese, ViaVio Mascarpone
ViaVio Cheese, ViaVio Stracchino

Dupont Danisco Fresh Unripened Cheese
Fonterra Co-operative Group, Anchor Food Professionals Cream Cheese

AsureQuality Dutch Style Cheese
Barrys Bay Cheese, Barrys Bay Edam
Mahoe Cheese, Mahoe Farmhouse Cumin Gouda
Mercer Cheese, Mercer Waikato Vintage

Delta Wines European Style Cheese
Karikaas Natural Dairy Products Ltd, Karikaas Maasdam

NZSCA Retail Cheddar Cheese
Fonterra Brands (NZ), Kapiti Tuteremoana Te Tihi Aged Cheddar

NZSCA Bulk Cheddar Cheese
Fonterra Co-operative Group, Fonterra Stirling NZMP Mild Cheddar

Sabato Farmhouse Cheese
The Drunken Nanny Ltd, Black Tie

Thermaflo Washed Rind
Over the Moon Dairy, Over the Moon Galactic Gold

Big Chill Distribution Flavoured Cheese
Barrys Bay Cheese, Barrys Bay Smoked Rinded Cheddar
Clevedon Buffalo Co, Clevedon Buffalo Chilli and Lime Marinated Cheese
Clevedon Buffalo Co, Clevedon Buffalo Garlic and Thyme Marinated Cheese
Karikaas Natural Dairy Products Ltd, Karikaas Pepper
Meyer Cheese, Meyer Cheese Fenugreek
Meyer Cheese, Meyer Cheese Cracked Pepper
Meyer Cheese, Meyer Cheese Garlic & Chives
Meyer Cheese, Meyer Cheese Smoked Gouda
Over the Moon Dairy, Over the Moon Black Truffle Brie
Waimata Cheese, Waimata Chilli Haloumi

Good George Brewing Goat Cheese
Anabelle Fine Fresh Cheeses, Fromage Frais – Goat
Aroha Organic Goat Cheese, Aroha Organic Raw Milk Rich Plain
Aroha Organic Goat Cheese, Aroha Raw Milk Cumin
Belle Chevre Creamery, Belle Chevre Creamery Chèvre
Belle Chevre Creamery, Belle Chevre Creamery  Manaia Ma
Belle Chevre Creamery, Belle Chevre Creamery Halloumi
Meyer Cheese, Meyer Cheese Goats Milk Gouda
Nieuwenhuis Farmstead Cheese, Nieuwenhuis Farmstead Halloumi

DISH Sheep Cheese
Anabelle Fine Fresh Cheeses, Fromage Frais
Craggy Range Sheep Dairy, Craggy Range Sheep Dairy Blue
Craggy Range Sheep Dairy, Craggy Range Sheep Dairy Feta
Gibbston Valley Cheese, Gibbston Valley New Balfour
Mercer Cheese, Mercer Pecorino
Over the Moon Dairy, Over the Moon The Black Sheep
Thorvald, Thorvald Curado
Thorvald, Thorvald Sheep Milk Camembert
ViaVio Cheese, ViaVio Pecorino

Renco New Zealand Export Cheese
Fonterra Co-operative Group, Fonterra Lichfield NZMP, 3MC                                               

Curds & Whey Homecrafted Cheese and Cheesemaker
Tony Hamblyn, Makauri Gold

Innovative Packaging Butter
Fonterra Co-operative Group, Fonterra Kauri NZMP Salted Butter Spreadable
Fonterra Co-operative Group, Fonterra Morrinsville NZMP Salted Butter
Fonterra Co-operative Group, Mainland Reduced Salt Buttersoft
Fonterra Co-operative Group, Mainland Semi-Soft Butter
Fonterra Co-operative Group, Fonterra Edgecumbe NZMP Unsalted Pastry Butter
Fonterra Co-operative Group, Fonterra Te Rapa NZMP Unsalted Butter
Fonterra Co-operative Group, Fonterra Kauri NZMP Unsalted Butter
Fonterra Co-operative Group, Fonterra Te Awamutu NZMP Unsalted Butter
Fonterra Co-operative Group, Fonterra Clandeboye NZMP Unsalted Butter
Fonterra Co-operative Group, Fonterra Clandeboye NZMP Unsalted Lactic Butter
Fonterra Co-operative Group, Fonterra Whareroa NZMP Unsalted Lactic Butter                   

NZSCA Yoghurt
Clevedon Buffalo Co, Clevedon Buffalo Natural Yoghurt
Clevedon Buffalo Co, Clevedon Buffalo Vanilla Bean Yoghurt
Clevedon Buffalo Co, Clevedon Buffalo Passionfruit Yoghurt
Clevedon Buffalo Co, Clevedon Buffalo Lemon Zest Yoghurt

Here are some of our favourite cheese recipes:

Oozy three cheese risotto

Sausage and pear salad with blue cheese dressing

or mix and match your favourite selection of cheeses to our snack platter

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