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Fonterra's Ferndale Maestro Blue cheese won the big award at Cuisine Champions of Cheese Awards last night at a gala dinner in Auckland.

The cheese was named the Taylor's Port Champion of Champions cheese and it won praise from an Australian.

"This is close to perfection," said master judge Neil Willman.

Judges said Maestro Blue was an excellent example of a European-style of cheese that had transitioned into a true New Zealand blue cheese. Aged for six weeks, it has a rustic feel but a creamy palate.

Maestro Blue is made in Fonterra's Eltham factory by Keven Saywell, who was named Hospitality Magazine Champion Cheesemaker.

The quality of blue cheese was a feature of this year's awards. Outside their class, blue cheeses also won the NZ Trade & Enterprise Champion Export Cheese Award (Kapiti Kikorangi - Fonterra Brands NZ) and the New World Champion Favourite Cheese Award (also Kapiti Kikorangi).

The other top prize, the Cuisine Champion Artisan Cheese Award, went to Parvenu, produced by Crescent Dairy Goats, of Albany.

- NZPA