Wheels of cheese are turning, coloured wax is being applied and cheese is being carefully packed for shipping as the country’s finest cheesemakers vie for top honours at the tenth annual NZ Champions of Cheese Awards.
From the smallest artisan cheesemakers producing one cheese a day to the biggest dairy plants exporting cheese globally, New Zealand’s best speciality cheese will take centre stage under one roof later this month.
Marking a ten year milestone this year, the 2013 NZ Champions of Cheese Awards judging will take place at The Langham in Auckland on Sunday 24th February.
With 413 entries from 59 different cheese companies, including six first time entrants and a larger number of smaller artisan companies, this year’s competition may deliver interesting results, organiser of the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards Vikki Lee Goode says.
“A host of emerging cheese companies placing entries indicates a real vibrancy in the New Zealand cheese industry, and may provide surprising results in popular categories often dominated by larger, well-established names,” Goode says.
“It’s reassuring to see such vitality and continued passion in our country’s cheese industry. From well-loved and respected brands through to new cheeses made by talented second generation cheesemakers - there’s so much to champion about New Zealand cheese.”
A total of 28 expert assessors, including some of New Zealand’s most renowned food experts and writers, will consume and critique every cheese in the search for the nation’s best.
The judging panel will once again be led by Master Judge Russell Smith, one of Australasia’s most experienced international cheese judges and a renowned cheese educationalist. This will be Smith’s fifth year judging the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards.
Every cheese will be examined by both a technical and an aesthetic judge and strictly graded to pre-determined bronze, silver and gold standards.
Judges will also determine a champion cheese in 16 categories before selecting the two best overall cheeses in the competition to be named supreme winner of the Cuisine Champion Artisan Award for small boutique producers, and the Crossroads Wines Champion of Champions Award for larger producers.
Trends emerging from this year’s entries show the increasing popularity of home crafted cheese with 30 entries received for the Home Crafted Cheese category.
There is a continuation of mixed milk cheese varieties entered this year – an international trend that is followed strongly here in New Zealand. Blue cheese, Dutch-style, Feta and Cheddar are also proving to be strong amongst this year’s entrants.
The 2013 NZ Champions of Cheese Award winners will be announced at a gala dinner at The Langham in Auckland on Tuesday 26th February.
The following day (Wednesday 27th February) the public are invited to sample and purchase award-winning cheeses at the ultimate event for cheese lovers, Cuisine CheeseFest, which also takes place at The Langham.
Due to its increased popularity, opening hours for Cuisine CheeseFest have been extended from 12 noon to 3pm and 5pm to 8pm. Tickets are available for $30 per person at www.eventfinder.co.nz or $35 at the door.