The Shout Magazine (New Zealand)

NZ Champions of Cheese Award medallists ‘rival world’s finest’

NZ Champions of Cheese Award medallists ‘rival world’s finest’

After checking, sniffing and tasting more than 250 locally produced cheeses the country’s finest 187 have been awarded medals in the New Zealand Champions of Cheese Awards.

Assessment was conducted at Hamilton’s Wintec Te Pūkenga in early March with Master Judge Jason Tarrant guiding thirty judges through an evaluation of 253 NZ-made cheeses.

Master Judge Jason Tarrant.

Jason Tarrant said the intense judgement affirmed the exceptional quality of locally made cheese. “This is the 21st year of the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards and competition continues recognise  the ingenuity, passion, and dedication of Kiwi cheesemakers. The 72 gold, 71 silver and 44 bronze medals are a testament to their relentless pursuit of perfection, sparing no effort to craft cheeses that rival the finest in the world.”

The judges – a mix of industry professionals including cheesemakers, cheese retailers, food technologists, and food writers – worked tirelessly across 20 categories. From Gouda to washed rind, blue cheese to fresh Italian styles, each cheese underwent rigorous scrutiny. Among the standouts were some amazing goat, sheep, and buffalo milk cheeses competing for the inaugural ‘Best in Class Award.’ For the first time, cheddar was judged in three distinct age groups, which really allowed the depth of flavour and complexity – achieved by ageing or cellaring cheddar – to stand on its own, showcasing this popular cheese type.

Chef’s Choice judges at the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards judging in March 2024; Mat Mclean from Palate restaurant and Nathan Hartley from SkyCity, both of Hamilton.

Owned and managed by the New Zealand Specialist Cheesemakers Association, the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards are in their 21st year of recognising Aotearoa’s finest cheeses. They shine a light on the best examples to guide consumers on purchase decisions with trophies and medals awarded to outstanding NZ Cheese.

NZSCA Chair, Simon Lamb thanked all the volunteer judges and stewards whose expertise made the awards possible.

He noted the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards medal announcement was a timely focus on NZ-made cheese, coming in the week after the government endorsed legislation to allow free trade with the EU. Cheesemakers are concerned this will enable low-cost subsidised cheese to undercut locally made product.

Simon Lamb says winning NZ Champions of Cheese medals is one way local cheesemakers can stand proud and receive recognition for the world class quality cheese they make. “Like many Kiwis, cheesemakers are finding business conditions tough. Over the past 18 months several boutique cheese companies have shut down their businesses. We’re pleased to host the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards which provide an opportunity to stop and celebrate cheesemakers’ endeavour.”

NZ Champions of Cheese Awards 2024 medal winners are listed on and

The 2024 NZ Champions of Cheese Awards trophy winners will be announced at the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards Gala Dinner in Hamilton on Thursday May 2, 2024.

The NZ Champions of Cheese 2024 trophy categories are:

Woolworths: Champion of Champions (Commercial)

NZSCA: Champion of Champions (Mid-sized)

Puhoi Valley: Champion of Champions (Boutique)

MilkTestNZ: Champion Cheesemaker

Fonterra Co-operative Group: Champion Original Cheese

ECOLAB: Champion Blue Cheese

NZSCA: Champion New Cheese

CHR Hansen: Champion Soft White Rind Cheese

Dish magazine: Champion Greek-Style or Danish-Style Cheese

Cheeselinks: Champion Fresh Italian-Style Cheese

Wintec Te Pūkenga: Champion Fresh Unripened Cheese

AsureQuality: Champion Dutch-Style Cheese

IXOM: Champion European-Style Cheese

IFF: Champion Farmhouse Cheese

Thermaflo: Champion Washed Rind Cheese

NZSCA: Champion Aged Flavoured Added Cheese

Big Chill Distribution: Champion Fresh Flavoured Added Cheese

Tetra Pak: Champion Retail Cheddar Cheese

SEE: Champion Bulk Cheddar Cheese

OJI Fibre Solutions: Best in Class Goats’ Milk Cheese

Sabato: Best in Class Sheep Milk Cheese

Innovative Packaging: Best in Class Buffalo Milk Cheese

Dominion Salt: Champion Export Cheese

Special Awards

NZSCA: Chefs’ Choice

Woolworths: Sustainability Award

Curds & Whey: Amateur Cheesemaker.

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