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The Search for New Zealand's Best Cheese Begins

20/2/2012 - The crème de la crème of New Zealand cheese will be named at the end of this month at New Zealand’s only national cheese competition, the 2012 Cuisine NZ Champions of Cheese Awards.

The 2012 Cuisine NZ Champions of Cheese Awards is a celebration of local cheesemaking honouring technical excellence in the manufacture of New Zealand cheese. Now in its ninth year, the competition is set to be bigger and tougher than ever with a record number of New Zealand cheese companies entering cheeses for judging.

With four new cheesemakers, an increase in the use of mixed milk blends, the rise of Haloumi and washed rind cheeses as Kiwi favourites, and the use of cardoon (a thistle-like plant) as a coagulating agent, it is clear this year’s Cuisine NZ Champions of Cheese Awards will deliver surprising results.

Organiser of the 2012 Cuisine NZ Champions of Cheese Awards, Vikki Lee Goode, says; “It’s always an exciting time of the year when the entries start rolling in for judging. Nine years on and the calibre and variety of entries continues to impress – it looks like it’s going to be another tough contest for our judges.”

Judging will take place at The Langham in Auckland on Sunday 26 February. A total of 28 expert assessors, including some of New Zealand’s most renowned food experts and writers, will consume and critique 430 different cheeses from 36 different cheese companies in the search for the nation’s best cheese.

The judging panel will be led by Master Judge Russell Smith, one of Australasia’s most experienced international cheese judges and a renowned cheese educationalist. Smith is no stranger to the Cuisine NZ Champions of Cheese Awards, having judged the competition for the last four years.

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 each of the 19 categories before selecting the two best overall cheeses in the competition to be named supreme winner of the Cuisine Artisan Award for small boutique producers, and the Yealands Estate Champion of Champions for larger producers.

While professional speciality cheesemakers represent the bulk of the entries, cheese made at home by enthusiastic hobbyists is a growing trend, with 17 entries received for the Homecrafted Cheese category from 10 different hobbyist cheesemakers throughout the country.

Goode says the team has already noted with interest some common themes among entries for this year’s Cuisine NZ Champions of Cheese Awards.

The 2012 Cuisine NZ Champions of Cheese Award winners will be announced at a gala dinner at The Langham in Auckland on Tuesday 28 February.

The public are invited to sample and purchase award-winning cheeses at the ultimate event for cheese lovers, Monteith’s CheeseFest, which takes place at The Langham in Auckland from 5-9pm on Wednesday 29 February. Tickets for this event are available for $30 per person from

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