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New accolade . . . Whitestone Cheese chief executive Simon Berry holds the award he received at the Outstanding New Zealand Food Producer Awards in Auckland last week. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Whitestone Cheese has earned a new honour.

The Oamaru cheesemaker has again risen to the top of its craft, winning one of seven categories in the inaugural Outstanding New Zealand Food Producer Awards.

Its Vintage Windsor Blue was named the most outstanding crafted dairy product.

Whitestone Cheese chief executive Simon Berry was in Auckland to receive the award – the latest in a long string.

He told the Oamaru Mail it was “fantastic” to win, especially with that cheese.

It has become the company’s signature product, converting people who used to hate blue cheese into devoted devourers.

Ten food judges sampled more than 150 products from 82 sources to decide the awards. After tasting the Vintage Windsor Blue, one said:

“OMG, words fail me. I want that cheese as my death row meal!”

The judges acknowledged its distinct, complex flavours and sweet finish, due to milk from cows grazing pasture on limestone soils mixed with a culture developed in-house from the same strain that was found in the famous Roquefort caves.

Mr Berry said the new national title confirmed the cheese has “real merit”.

The other three cheeses in Whitestone’s “black label range” – Vintage Five Forks, Windsor Blue, and Lindis Pass Camembert – were also finalists in the awards.

Mr Berry said the awards were “very well-run” with “very good judges”.

“The whole (Whitestone) team’s really pleased,” he said. “It will help us to market internationally as well as domestically.”

The endorsement was also well-timed, as the company doubles its production capacity by building an extra 1100sq m of factory space.