Sweet cheesus! It was a cheese fever dream of epic portions at the The Australian Grand Dairy Awards judging table. The annual awards recognise the cream of the crop from around Australia. This year they cooked up something extra special for lactose lovers. We were invited back for the second year to put our late night gelato tasting and cheese board sampling skills honed from 100’s of events each year to the test to judge some of the top dairy finalists and help select the winner of the People’s Choice Awards.
Upon arrival at the Grand Dairy headquarters we donned our judging attire, complete with white coats and clipboards. Sonia Cousins – cheese educator, judge, and cheese monger – provided a quick tutorial. It might sound delicious, but dairy judging is serious business. It’s a full sensory experience that incorporates smell, texture, appearance, and flavour. (Plus some unique challenges – like judging butter?!)
Entering the judging room was enough to convince me I’d died and gone to dairy heaven. This is not the place to be if you are an unfortunate lactose intolerant individual. A massive table topped with a white cloth was spread with all manner of dairy. Off to the side sparkling water, apple slices, and crackers sat ready to cleanse our palates. It was a blind tasting, so we only knew the styles of what we were judging (which ran the gamut from goat cheese to flavoured ice-cream and plain milk). Luckily, we also knew our samples were top quality, gold medal winners. (No milk from cows sneaking into onion patches passed our lips.)
AGDA helps showcase new products and things you never knew existed, surprising even a seasoned cheese monger like Cousins. In addition to classics like cheddar and brie, we also tasted lesser known cheeses like labneh, basil coated halloumi, and raclette.
With our judging scores tallied, now it’s time to wait and see. The Australian Grand Dairy Awards will be announcing the finalists and winners over the next few months so keep an eye on our pages for updates!
Tomas Zagoda is a filmmaker, writer, coffee addict and tall person who does not play basketball. You can follow him @TomasZagoda.
Jenny Schmidt’s love affair with dairy started with a part-time job in a creamery as a university student. When she’s not stuffing her face with cheese, you can find her sampling the latest craft beer or sipping a creative cocktail.
Vote now in the people’s choice awards and go into the draw to win a year’s supply of cheese from the Australian Grand Dairy Awards.