Curtis Cord, president of the New York International Olive Oil Competition (NYIOOC), announced the best olive oils in the world for 2016 at a press conference packed with over 200 olive oil producers retailers, distributors, chefs and journalists from around the world in New York City this evening.
The crowded audience was abuzz with anticipation, nerves and excitement. One producer said she was nearly in tears. “My boss told me not to come home unless I win,” she said. Viewers from around the world, who watched the live-streamed broadcast online, joined the New York crowd, waiting for the results.
Cord was flanked by the NYIOOC panel of judges, comprised of 15 top tasters from every region of the globe, and led by Carola Dümmer Medina, Fernando Martínez Román, and Konstantinos Liris. After meticulously tasting and evaluating over 820 oils from 26 countries — the largest international collection of olive oils ever assembled — over four intense days, the winners were decided. At 6:00 pm EDT on April 14, the news was revealed to the world.
“Making high-quality extra virgin olive oil has always been a demanding task,” Cord told the audience. “Past successes do not guarantee that producers will craft a winning oil this time.”
“Unlike wine,” Cord said, “an excellent vintage for extra virgin olive oil lasts but one year, with each new season forcing farmers and millers to earn their mettle again, to face a new set of challenges in their quest to produce a juice without defects, and capture the fleeting qualities of healthy fruit.”
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Despite the many challenges, 314 producers took home awards, an overall success rate of 38 percent. Italy won 109 awards, overtaking last year’s top winner, Spain, who racked up 78 wins, a strong second. The United States came in third place with 50.
Portugal and Greece tied for fourth place, with 20 awards each. 180 Greek brands submitted olive oils this year, and only 11 percent placed in the competition, a showing that will “no doubt lead many to take a hard look at their production processes,” according to Cord. New Zealand and Australia fared well, winning about half of their entries. 9 of 16 Croatian brands took home awards.
Cord introduced Dorothy Cann Hamilton, founder and CEO of the International Culinary Center, and announced a new initiative there. The forthcoming Olive Oil Sommelier Certification Program will bring the world’s foremost olive oil experts and educators to New York for a comprehensive series of courses on olive oil production, quality management and sensory analysis. “I want to congratulate everyone who is here today,” Hamilton said. “You are the pioneering group for olive oil, which is going to take on the world. This is a growing movement and this is just the beginning.”
As winners ascended the stage to collect their sleek NYIOOC trophies, lively chatter, enthusiastic applause and the occasional cheer erupted in the captivated crowd. (The nervous producer took home an award, so she can breathe easy, as can her boss.)
In the four years since the NYIOOC began, the winning olive oils have proven to be highly valued by chefs, food buyers and discerning consumers everywhere who seek the very highest quality in extra virgin olive oil. The NYIOOC has always “aspired not only to identify the word’s best olive oils, but to develop innovative ways to get them into kitchens where they rightfully deserve to be,” Cord said.
All of New York International Olive Oil Competition winners are presented on the website bestoliveoils.com. For the first time, the Best New Olive Oils Marketplace, which is set to launch in the upcoming weeks, will allow enthusiasts to buy the winning oils on the same website. “We will help sellers of these high-quality products reach a much larger audience — and that lies at the very heart of our mission,” said Cord.