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An experienced campaigner and a rookie have taken out the two top prizes at this year's New Zealand Champions of Cheese Awards.

The awards were announced at a ceremony in Auckland last night.

More than 400 cheeses were entered in 19 categories.

Established cheesemakers, Mercer Cheese, won the champion of champions award, for large cheesemakers, for its Mercer Extra Mature with Cumin.

And newcomer, Over the Moon Dairy Company, won the champion artisan cheese award for smaller producers, for its Galactic Gold washed rind cheese.

Waikato's Mercer Cheese, founded in the 1980s, has won more than 30 medals in previous competitions.

Awards master judge Neil Willman said Mercer's cheese was "truly delightful".

Over the Moon was established in the Waikato town of Putaruru last year.

Mr Willman said its cheese had a "creamy unctuous texture, an attractive rind and a superb yet complex washed-rind flavour, with elements of pungency, earthiness, sweetness and nuttiness".

* The public can try the award-winning cheeses tonight at CheeseFest, which is being held at the Skycity Convention Centre from 5-8pm.

Tickets are $35 and can be purchased from Ticketek or by calling (09) 307 5000. Door sales will be available from 4.30pm.


- NZPA