Olive oil producers from Italy, Spain and the United States can start donning new award seals on bottles of their winning entries from the Los Angeles International Northern Hemisphere EVOO Competition.
Six winners were awarded Best of Show; three from an international division and three from a domestic division. The international winners, in delicate, medium and robust categories, were all from Italy: Trappeto di Caprafico, OlioCru and Fattoria Ramerino. California producers won all of the Best of Show awards in the domestic division, including, Scripps College, Isern & Sons and Apollo Olive Oil.
Of the 516 entries from fifteen countries, the highest honor went to Italy’s OlioCru, which was awarded the Marco Mugelli Prize for the “best of the best” extra virgin olive oils. The top prize was named after the founder of the National Association of Olive Oil Testers who created oil extraction techniques that greatly preserve oil flavor and health benefits.
The Los Angeles competition, now in its fourteenth year, was originally conceived as a way to “improve the breed of California olive oil,” said Darrell Corti, Chairman of the competition. The event later expanded to include international oils.
Last year, Corti split the competition into Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Each hemisphere’s olives harvest at different times of the year, and this year’s Southern Hemisphere oils will be judged in July, 2013.
Olive oils entered into the L.A. competition were sampled by a panel of international tasters. The panel was expanded this year to include Toshihisa Suzuki from Japan and Margaret Edwards from New Zealand. “Our judges have a great deal of experience and are talented tasters,” said Corti.
Tastings were conducted over an intense three day period. Each panel of tasters sampled 50 to 60 oils each day. Oils were tested from customary blue glasses that obscure the color so that it will not influence the perception of taste. In addition, tasters were not told anything about the oil’s origin, other than whether it was in the delicate, medium or robust category. Corti referred to the proceedings as the “blue glass of anonymity.”
Judges gave awards in Best of Class and in Gold, Silver and Bronze medal categories. Best of Show awardees were selected from the category winners.
Despite an abundance of flavorful and quality oils, Corti said that he saw uncharacteristically lower quality oils from a few countries that are famous for their oils. “Oil, like wine, is a product of the agricultural growing cycle. It’s still mother nature who bats last,” Corti said.
Competition winners have the opportunity to be recognized for their quality EVOO and to receive award seals. In addition, the public will have several chances to taste the winning olive oils at Cheers – L.A.’s Wine, Spirits, Beer & Food Festival on June 22 and at the L.A. County Fair in September.