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Big Cheeses Celebrate Awards

Big Cheeses Celebrate Awards

The big cheeses of 2005 were announced last night (Thursday 7 April), at the second NZ Champions of Cheese Awards Gala Dinner held at Auckland's Hyatt Hotel.

The results revealed that cheesemakers and consumers are moving away from traditional cheese styles named after European regions in favour of those original to New Zealand's shores, with high levels of entries and winners having unique Kiwi recipes.

The Awards were the culmination of a week-long cheese competition which began with the judging on Sunday by a panel of 40 distinguished judges, headed by US-based Master Judge, John Greeley.

Coming from all corners of the country, almost 500 cheeses making up nearly two tonnes of cheese were entered in the annual competition, which recognises excellence in New Zealand cheesemaking.

The finalists - bronze, silver and gold winners - were announced at the official NZ Champions of Cheese Cocktail Party on Tuesday night, where all entries were displayed for tasting, forming the biggest ever collection of New Zealand speciality cheeses under one roof.

The flavoursome Vintage Leyden cheese, made by North Canterbury cheese company Karikaas, was presented with the ultimate award for fine New Zealand cheesemaking - the AEP Flexipac Champion of Champions Award 2005.

Karikaas Leyden is a hard, Dutch-style close-textured cheese flavoured with cumin seeds, caraway and spices, with a flavour that develops and becomes more intense with age. The cheese that won accolades from the judges had been aged for more than 2 years and was praised for its amazing flavour. To make the final round of judging, the Karikaas Leyden was first awarded the New World Champion Firm Cheese Award (aged over 180 days).

Started in 1983 by Dutch couple Karin and Rients Rypma, Karikaas who brought their Dutch cheese recipes to New Zealand, is now run by Di Hawkins who took over the business last year.

In a bid to champion cheese styles developed domestically and increase New Zealand identity in the world of cheesemaking, the Dish Magazine Champion Original NZ Cheese Award was introduced this year, and was won by Whitestone Farmhouse. The new award was launched due to popular demand and coincides with controversy over the geographical naming of food products.

A unique New Zealand cheese covered in fine rind, Whitestone Farmhouse has a lemon-grass aroma and springy elasticity. The curd is moist with a chalky centre that ripens and softens from the edge as it matures. When young it has a 'sea breeze' freshness with a nutty edge that develops more character with age.

A true original New Zealand cheese, it was the first ever cheese made by Whitestone and was developed in 1983.

Whitestone Cheese's star cheesemaker Jason Tarrant was heralded as New Zealand's finest cheesemaker when he was presented by the Champion Cheesemaker Award 2005. The young cheesemaker was recruited by Whitestone Cheese three years ago.

"Jason has been involved in cheesemaking for all of his professional life and is hugely experienced in many cheese types," commented Whitestone Cheese managing director Bob Berry. "He is a very talented and creative cheesemaker with a true passion for the product, and is fully deserving of this prestigious Award."

Export cheese was again a strong element to the Awards with high levels of entries into the NZ Trade & Enterprise Champion Export Cheese Award, won by Mainland Products for the second year in a row.

"New Zealand ranks as fifth largest cheese exporter in the world, behind France, the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark," commented Jim Anderton, Minister for Industry and Regional Development, presenting the Champion Export Award on behalf of New Zealand Trade & Enterprise.

"Although France and the Netherlands export higher dollar values of cheese, this product is a more significant contributor in percentage terms to our national accounts than it is to any other nation in the world." "Cheddar is still our largest exported variety, by volume and value, accounting for over 40 percent by volume and value, but New Zealand is also becoming increasingly noted on the world stage as a niche, premium producer and this is laying a foundation for future diversification and growth."

For the second year running, Puhoi Valley Cheese Camembert was crowned New Zealand's favourite cheese in the New World Champion Favourite Cheese Award. This award is decided according to which cheese is most commonly purchased by New Zealand consumers.

Category winners in the NZ Champions of Cheese 2005 were:

Hyatt Regency Champion Firm Unripened Cheese Canaan Zefatit with Dill and Garlic Region - Mt Roskill, Auckland

Label & Litho Champion Soft Unripened Cheese Puhoi Valley Cheese Company Bouton d'or Mascarpone Region - Puhoi

Innovative Packaging Champion Soft Ripened Cheese Kapiti Fine Foods Tomato and Basil Brie Region - Paraparaumu

New World Champion Firm Cheese (aged over 180 days) Karikaas Vintage Leyden Region - North Canterbury

Ecolab Champion Washed Rind Cheese Kapiti Fine Foods Brick Region - Paraparaumu

Fonseca Port Champion Aged Cheddar Kapiti Fine Foods Aged Cheddar Region - Paraparaumu

Sealed Air Champion Young Cheddar Fonterra Lichfield Cheddar for General Trade by Rowan Pringle Region - Lichfield

Foodtown Champion Semi-firm Cheese Kapiti Fine Foods Mt Herbert Region - Paraparaumu

Champion Blue Cheese with Soft White Rind Mainland Products Ferndale Captain's Bay Blue Region - Eltham, Taranaki

AgriQuality Champion New Cheese Puhoi Valley Cheese Company Kaha Blue Region - Puhoi

Amcor Kiwi Packaging Champion Blue-veined Cheese Whitestone Cheese Moeraki Bay Blue Region - Oamaru

Wild Appetite Champion Flavoured Cheese Kapiti Fine Foods Herb and Garlic Region - Paraparaumu

New Zealand Trade & Enterprise Champion Export Cheese Mainland Products Blue Vein Region - Eltham, Taranaki

Dish Magazine Champion Original NZ Cheese Whitestone Cheese Farmhouse Region - Oamaru

New World Champion Favourite Cheese Puhoi Valley Cheese Camembert Region - Puhoi

Curious Design Champion Cheese Packaging Delago Sheeps Milk Feta Region - Papakura, Auckland

Fonterra (NZ) Ltd Champion Cheeseboard The Spencer on Byron Hotel Region - Takapuna, Auckland

Food & Beverage Magazine Champion Cheesemaker Jason Tarrant, Whitestone Cheese Region - Oamaru

Master Judge John Greeley comments: "Blue cheese is particularly impressive in New Zealand. For a small country there is an impressive variety of blues from cream-added to white rind and mild through to full flavours. "Many of them received high marks and comment from judges."

The strong performance of New Zealand blue cheeses is reflected in their strong presence in the Awards with champion cheeses being awarded to Mainland Products Ferndale Captain's Bay Blue, Puhoi Valley Cheese Company Kaha Blue and Whitestone Cheese Moeraki Bay Blue.

Mr Greeley also praised the quality of New Zealand's milk and cheesemakers: "Grazing the animals on grass in their natural surroundings produces great milk, which provides an excellent base for cheesemaking. That coupled with excellent craftsmanship and creativity has seen the introduction of the Dish Magazine Original New Zealand Cheese Award and a growing number of cheeses unique to New Zealand."

"Cheese is hot on the global scene and certainly New Zealand is set to be part of this."

The New Zealand Champions of Cheese Awards was launched last year by the New Zealand Specialist Cheesemakers Association Inc.

"The Awards have become an annual highlight of the growing New Zealand cheese industry, and we are delighted at the results of this successful second year," said Bob Berry, Chairman of the NZSCA Inc. "These Awards have set a new benchmark for standards of excellence in the cheese industry."


Prepared on behalf of the NZ Specialist Cheesemakers Association by Goode PR.

Notes to Editors:

About Karikaas Karikaas was started in 1983 by Dutch couple, Karin and Rients Rypma, in Loburn, a rural area of North Canterbury.

Growing up in Holland and living just 4km away from a cheese factory made cheesemaking a natural part of Rients' childhood. However, it wasn't until 1983, when he and his wife Karin moved to New Zealand, that they began cheesemaking.

The name Karikaas comes from - Ka (Karin Rypma), Ri (Rients Rypma), Kaas (Dutch for cheese). The couple pioneered the New Zealand label with a range of cheese and natural dairy products that reflected the unspoilt rural surroundings of the South Island with a unique European flavour.

In the 80s, Karikaas was one of only two boutique cheese factories in the country and was also one of the first to produce Quark and buttermilk, foods that are consumed every day in Holland.

Karikaas cheeses are all hand-made in the traditional European way using cows' milk. Beginning with a modest production of 100kg of cheese a week from 1000 litres of milk, Karikaas now produces cheese from about 700,000 litres of milk.

Matured on white pine shelves, the cheese is coated with wax to enable it to breathe and to ensure the natural process of maturing is not restricted. The cheese is turned several times a week and matured anywhere between three months and two years.

Karikaas products are free from additives, preservatives, stabilisers, emulsifiers and colourings. A process that requires refining recipes, tracing the best organic elements and plenty of time, effort and commitment.

The Karikaas range includes Low Fat Kwark (Quark), Buttermilk, Edam Cheese and Acidophilus Yoghurt. Cheese varieties include Gouda, Edam, Leyden, Maasdam, Feta, Marinated Feta, Pepper, Friesian Cloves, Garlic, Pepper, Herb - in a selection of vintages and ages.

Karikaas originated and remains in Loburn, North Canterbury. It is open to the public weekdays from 8.30am to 4.30pm and Sundays from 1pm to 4pm. For further information on Karikaas and its products visit

About Master Judge John Greeley John's diverse and notable career has seen him championing excellence in cheese for more than two decades. A member of the American Cheese Society (ACS) for 22 years, he is also currently a member of the ACS Board of Directors, as well as Chairman of the ACS Cheese Competition.

A real advocate for maintaining quality standards across the industry, John has been instrumental in making the ASC Cheese Competition the prestigious accreditation system it is today. After expanding and developing the categories, definitions and requirements, he recently overhauled the ACS Awards criteria, scoring system, judges' training procedures and the entry requirements for ACS Cheese Makers.

John began his career at New England's John Dewar Meat Company where he headed its Cheese Division. Embracing the rise in the speciality cheese industry, John's work soon involved supplying speciality cheese to premier food establishments, training local chefs about local and imported cheese, and tutoring and speaking to wine and gourmet food groups.

In 1990, John started his current business, Sheila Marie Imports, supplying the retail grocers of New England with speciality cheeses from the US and Europe.

John's other credentials include a degree in cheese making from Washington State University and a degree in cheese grading from the University of Wisconsin. John was inducted into the Guild de Fromagers of France in 2002.

John resides in Massachusetts, USA with his wife Nancy and their twin boys.

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