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Croatia's Top Producers Upbeat as Harvest Nears

As fall rolls in, several Croatian producers say the conditions look good for another award-winning year.

Harvest at Salvela
Sep. 25, 2018
By Daniel Dawson
Harvest at Salvela

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Croa­t­ian olive oil pro­duc­ers enjoyed an unprece­dent­edly suc­cess­ful year at the 2018 NYIOOC World Inter­na­tional Olive Oil Com­pe­ti­tion (NYIOOC), receiv­ing a record 40 awards for 45 entries, includ­ing two Best in Class.

Their suc­cess rate of 89 per­cent was the high­est of any coun­try that sub­mit­ted at least 10 oils in the 2018 edi­tion of the com­pe­ti­tion. Croa­t­ian pro­duc­ers also set records for Gold and Sil­ver awards received.
See more: The Best Olive Oils from Croa­tia

Olive oil pro­duc­tion is a con­stant chal­lenge whose ulti­mate goal is to achieve the utmost qual­ity,” Mar­ija Buršić, of Buršić OPG, told Olive Oil Times. This year Buršić achieved just that, receiv­ing a Best in Class for her De Kleva blend.

De Kleva is a com­bi­na­tion of five types of olives: the Istrian bjel­ica, Buža, Fran­toio, Lec­cino and Pen­dolino,” she said. It is rich in polyphe­nols and antiox­i­dants that are good for our health.”

Buršić’s De Kleva had pre­vi­ously won a Gold at the com­pe­ti­tion and she plans to sub­mit it again next year. She cred­ited the oil’s suc­cess to both her family’s cul­ti­va­tion tech­niques and the unique loca­tion of their olive groves, a famil­iar theme among Croa­t­ian pro­duc­ers.

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Nature is a very impor­tant part­ner in pro­duc­tion,” Buršić said. Nova Vas, with its undu­lat­ing and sunny hills that veer towards the river, has always been, in its own spe­cial way, ideal for olive pro­duc­tion. The con­di­tions are excep­tional: nat­u­rally diverse olive groves, an ideal ter­rain and an opti­mal micro­cli­mate.”

Harvest at Salvela

While Buršić did not say how her har­vest is going this year com­pared with pre­vi­ous ones, sev­eral other pro­duc­ers who took home some of the competition’s top hon­ors are opti­mistic that this year will be just as good as the last one.

This year looks great for us,” Vedrana Rako­vac, the owner of OPG Rako­vac, told Olive Oil Times. Rako­vac took home a Gold award for her Bilini blend. Her Gold was one of 27 awarded to Croa­t­ian pro­duc­ers at the 2018 NYIOOC.

The fruit is healthy and abun­dant. It’s been a great year for the Istrian cul­ti­var, Buža, which is very promis­ing since Buža pro­vides oil of extra­or­di­nary qual­ity,” she said. This might be a fan­tas­tic year for our Bilini extra vir­gin olive oil.”

This year was Rakovac’s first time enter­ing the NYIOOC. Her Bilini had pre­vi­ously won awards at sev­eral Croa­t­ian olive oil com­pe­ti­tions and she felt that enter­ing an inter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion with the pedi­gree of the NYIOOC was the next log­i­cal step for her brand.

Vedrana Rakovac and family

Rako­vac plans to enter the com­pe­ti­tion again next year and, just like this year, will only sub­mit her Bilini. She is con­fi­dent that her oil will win again due to the com­bi­na­tion of her loca­tion, vari­etals and pro­duc­tion tech­niques.

We believe that our Bilini extra vir­gin olive oil’s secret ingre­di­ent’ is the micro-loca­tion of our olive groves, as well as the share of indi­vid­ual cul­ti­vars which give a unique taste to our blend,” Rako­vac said. Loca­tion wise, our olive groves are posi­tioned on the very edge of the olive’s nat­ural habi­tat, which tends to extract the best from them.”

Edi Družetić is also con­fi­dent about the com­ing har­vest year. He is an olive oil pro­ducer at Agro­pro­dukt, which has sub­mit­ted their Salvela Buža extra vir­gin olive oil for the past six years and won Gold for the oil in each of the past three.

I expect this year’s har­vest to be quite good, just like the last few years were,” he told Olive Oil Times. Družetić also attrib­utes the unique micro­cli­mate in the region of Istria to the suc­cess of Agroprodukt’s oils.

Agroprodukt

The impor­tant dif­fer­ence from our Salvela Buža com­pared with other oils is the vari­etal, which only grows in the south of Istria and has par­tic­u­larly nat­ural aro­matic val­ues,” he said.

Družetić said Agro­pro­dukt plans on enter­ing the com­pe­ti­tion next year too and hopes to win more awards with their Salvela Buža and Tor­col, which did not receive any awards at the 2018 NYIOOC.

We will cer­tainly be present for next year’s com­pe­ti­tion, to con­firm the sta­tus of our oils,” he said.

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Accord­ing to the Inter­na­tional Olive Coun­cil, Croa­tia pro­duced 5,000 tons of olive oil last year, mak­ing the small east­ern Euro­pean coun­try the eigh­teenth largest pro­ducer glob­ally. How­ever, this har­vest sea­son is an off-year and, so far, the esti­mated yield is 2,600 tons. Despite its rel­a­tively small out­put, the qual­ity of Croa­t­ian olive oils con­tin­ues to be world-renowned.

Most pro­duc­ers focus on qual­ity over quan­tity. The com­ing months are, there­fore, key for pro­duc­ers hop­ing to con­tinue their impres­sive track record at the 2019 NYIOOC.

Each year’s har­vest is dif­fer­ent because of the weather influ­ence and there­fore chal­leng­ing,” Vedran Lupić of OPG Lupić, told Olive Oil Times.

Lupić and her hus­band won Croatia’s other Best in Class award for their Bembo Buža extra vir­gin olive oil. She said that pro­duc­ing award-win­ning oil is the cul­mi­na­tion of care­ful har­vest­ing and high-qual­ity and good luck with the weather the weather, which Croa­tia has largely had this sum­mer.

To ensure a high-qual­ity prod­uct, we fol­low year-round ten­der­ing and mod­ern agro-tech­ni­cal meth­ods, with spe­cial atten­tion given to hand har­vest­ing in mid-Octo­ber, thereby elim­i­nat­ing and reduc­ing dam­age to the fruit,” she said.

To prove to our­selves that we have done a good job, we need to enter this com­pe­ti­tion every year,” she added.


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