The big cheese . . . Whitestone Cheese head cheesemaker Chris Moran. PHOTO: RACHEL WYBROW PHOTOGRAPHY

Whitestone Cheese has added some more medals to its collection.

The Oamaru company was awarded 13 medals at the 2022 New Zealand Champions of Cheese Awards, including two golds in the Original Cheese category for its Drunken Windsor Blue and Vintage Five Forks.

Whitestone’s Drunken Windsor Blue is only available at its store in Oamaru and Cheese Bar in Auckland’s Viaduct.

The cheese is created by soaking Windsor Blue wedges in a sweet Irish whisky honey liqueur, which creates a fruity blue cheese with hints of honey.

The Vintage Five Forks is a goat and cow milk blend cheese and has already amassed an impressive number of awards, winning a gold medal at last year’s Champions of Cheese Awards and three golds at the Outstanding New Zealand Food Producer Awards.

“We’re all thrilled”, Whitestone Cheese managing director Simon Berry said.

The 2022 New Zealand Champions of Cheese Awards winners were announced last week, after judging took place in Hamilton on February 26 and 27.

Thirty-six judges, led by master cheese judge Jason Tarrant, assessed more than 380 cheeses, awarding 76 gold medals, 120 silvers and 58 bronzes this year.

Entry numbers were up 20% on last year’s awards.

Whitestone’s Ferry Road Halloumi was awarded a silver medal in the Greek/Cypriot Style Cheese category.

Entry numbers in this category were up on the previous year, with increased consumer demand for halloumi as a popular protein alternative.

The Champions of Cheese category trophy winners will be announced at a gala dinner in Hamilton on June 30.

This year, Whitestone Cheese celebrates 35 years in operation.

The company employs more than 75 staff at its Oamaru factory and in sales teams across the country.

Mr Berry said the cheese industry had seen a big shift, with Covid-19 restrictions impacting heavily on the hospitality and food service sector, which had led to a significant decline.

“However, with dining in occurring at home over dining out, we’ve seen a lift in the retail sector”, he said.