An esteemed judging panel tasted, smelt and crumbled their way through more than 300  New Zealand cheeses on Sunday at Ignite College in Auckland as they hunted for the winners of the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards 2020.

A new addition for the 2020 Awards is the Ignite Colleges Chefs’ Choice in which cheesemakers submitted a cheese of their choice which showcased their skill and were assessed by a specially convened panel of award-winning chefs. Hallertau Head Chef, Drew Lautenbach; Cordis Executive Chef, Volker Marecek​ and Ignite Colleges and NZ Chefs Auckland Branch President Jasbir Kaur, will be assessing the cheese with a view to choosing a winner whose cheese will wow restaurant and café diners.

For the first time in the Awards 17 year history, the panel – led by Australian Master Judge Russell Smith looked for three Supreme Champions. The change ensures the Awards represent the all the country’s cheesemakers from boutique producers through to the very large cheese companies and producers in between.

Master Judge Russell Smith who judges throughout the world is overseeing the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards for the 12th consecutive year and assisted a panel of 23 judges, including FMCG Business Head of Content, Tamara Rubanowski.

NZSCA chair Neil Willman said a significant change for 2020 is judging of the Champion Cheesemaker. “Cheesemakers now enter three styles of cheeses which will be assessed as one entry. The winner will be the cheesemaker who receives the highest aggregate score across their three cheeses,”. Additionally in 2020 a Greek/Cypriot Cheese Category has replaced what was formerly known as the Feta Category and the Cheddar Category has been split into two sub categories, Bulk and Retail Cheddar.

Following the judging at Ignite Colleges Manukau, medal winners will be announced in March. The announcement of Trophy Winners will be at a four-course gala dinner – featuring a selection of winning cheeses – at SkyCity Hamilton on Wednesday 6 May 2020. NZSCA is expecting 300 guests from throughout the country at the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards 2020.

The NZ Champions of Cheese 2020 Supreme Champion awards are:

  • Countdown Champion of Champions (Commercial)
  • New World Champion of Champions (Mid-sized)
  • Puhoi Valley Champion of Champions (Boutique)

The NZ Champions of Cheese 2020 Trophies are:

  • Fonterra Co-operative Group Champion Original Cheese
  • New Zealand Food Safety Champion New Cheese
  • ECOLAB Champion Blue Cheese
  • Milk Test NZ Champion Cheesemaker
  • Dupont Danisco Champion Fresh Unripened Cheese
  • Kiwi Labels Champion Greek/Cypriot Cheese
  • CHR Hansen Champion Soft White Rind Cheese
  • AsureQuality Champion Dutch Style Cheese
  • NZSCA Champion Retail Cheddar Cheese
  • NZSCA Champion Bulk Cheddar Cheese
  • Cheeselinks Champion Fresh Italian Style Cheese
  • Big Chill Distribution Champion Flavoured Cheese
  • Sabato Champion Farmhouse Cheese
  • Thermaflo Champion Washed Rind Cheese
  • Delta Wines Champion European Style Cheese
  • Dish magazine Champion Sheep Cheese
  • Renco New Zealand Champion Export Cheese
  • Good George Brewing Champion Goat Cheese
  • Curds & Whey Champion Homecrafted Cheese and Cheesemaker

The NZ Champions of Cheese 2020 Special Awards are:

  • New World Cheese Lovers’ Choice
  • Ignite Colleges Chefs’ Choice
  • 180 degrees Favourite NZ Specialty Cheese Shopping Experience
  • Innovative Packaging Champion Butter
  • NZSCA Champion Yoghurt

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