This year’s New Zealand Champions of Cheese Awards saw two previous champs return to the top with their goudas, while a newcomer was crowned best cheesemaker.
The Smoked Goat Gouda by Meyer Gouda Cheese was named Champion of Champions for best commercial cheese, while Mercer Cheese’s Fifty Fifty nabbed highest honors for artisan cheese. Both Meyer and Mercer hail from Waikato, in the North Island of New Zealand.
Mercer has dominated the artisan cheese category in recent years. Its Extra Mature Gouda won Champion of Champions in 2016, while its Mature Cumin won in 2015. Meyer’s previous wins include a Champion of Champions award in 2013 for its Vintage Gouda and a Champion Cheesemaker prize for Miel Meyer in 2015.
Master Judge Russell Smith described Meyer’s Smoked Goat Gouda as “an absolutely gorgeous goat cheese and a pleasure to eat.” He called the Fifty Fifty “a beautifully aged gouda, with complex sweet and savory flavors coming from the combination of cow and goat milk.”
Another top prize went to Catherine Oakley of Winsam Farm, who made a fantastic debut at the competition. Her Just Ewe—a semi-hard sheep cheese—earned a perfect score from judges, landing Oakley the Champion Cheesemaker award.
This year’s event saw more than 370 entries. More than 30 cheese experts (including our own Lassa Skinner) participated in the two-day judging process.
A full list of winners can be found here.