Producers in Small Croatian Village Celebrate Success While Calling for More Support

Farmers in coastal Dalmatia cited their success at the World Olive Oil Competition in their call for more investment in the sector.

Laueati and guests in front of Pakoštane Karaba Winery
By Nedjeljko Jusup
May. 11, 2023 12:47 UTC
Laueati and guests in front of Pakoštane Karaba Winery

Situated on the scenic Dalmatian coast­line, the small munic­i­pal­ity of Pakoštane is home to one of the high­est con­cen­tra­tions of award-win­ning pro­duc­ers in Croatia.

Benefiting from the area’s unique geog­ra­phy and cli­mate, pro­duc­ers enjoyed unprece­dented suc­cess at the 2023 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition and came together recently to cel­e­brate.

Among the newly-anointed NYIOOC win­ners at the fes­tiv­ity were Ante Vulin, Vinko Lalin and Tomislav Čudina, each of whom won Gold Awards for their extra vir­gin olive oil at the world’s largest olive oil qual­ity com­pe­ti­tion in New York.

See Also:The best olive oils from Croatia

We are glad that we con­tributed to the suc­cess of our coun­try’s olive grow­ers,” said Vulin, the owner of epony­mous OPG Vulin, which earned a Gold Award for its Antino brand, a medium-inten­sity Oblica.

Meanwhile, Lalin of OPG Lalin and his daugh­ter Danijela earned a Gold Award for their Dalma Premium brand, a medium blend.

The Lalin fam­ily said they were delighted with the award, the brand’s third gold medal this year after it was also awarded at two local competitions.“This is the suc­cess of our whole fam­ily,” Danijela Lalin said.


Tomislav Čudina, Danijela Lalin and Ante Vulin

Coincidentally, Vulin and Vinko Lalin are for­mer busi­ness part­ners who cofounded a tourism com­pany in 2000. While both men started grow­ing olives inde­pen­dently in the late 1980s, they renewed their efforts to pro­duce high-qual­ity olive oil in recent years.

Today, Vulin has 980 olive trees, of which 500 are fully mature. In the extremely demand­ing 2022/23 crop year, he pro­duced 3,000 liters of extra vir­gin olive oil using tra­di­tional meth­ods.

The biggest chal­lenges were over­com­ing the drought, pre­serv­ing healthy fruits and pro­cess­ing them in time,” he said.

Despite the extreme drought, Lalin also pro­duced 3,000 liters of extra vir­gin olive oil with 300 trees.

The third and youngest mem­ber, Pakoštan lau­re­ate and OPG Celini owner Tomislav Čudina, com­peted for the first time in New York and won a Gold Award.

The first awards are remem­bered. This is the wind at my back,” said Čudina, who has been grow­ing olives since he inher­ited the land from his grand­fa­ther in 2012 and planted 61 olive trees.

Soon after, Čudina bought more land and planted 240 olive trees, includ­ing Oblica, Levantinka, Plavica, Pendolino, Leccino and Frantoio. In the future, I plan to plant another 500 olive trees,” he said.

The NYIOOC judges said Čudina’s Olea Viola brand, a medium blend, fea­tures pro­nounced fruiti­ness, medium spici­ness and mild bit­ter­ness.

Pakoštane’s win­ning pro­duc­ers decided to cel­e­brate their suc­cess with the local com­mu­nity, orga­niz­ing an event at the local Karaba Winery.

Among the guests were Milivoj Kurtov, Pakoštane’s mayor; Ivica Vlatković, pres­i­dent Association of Olive Growers of Zadar County; Benito Pucar, pres­i­dent of Olive Days, a local olive oil com­pe­ti­tion; Danijela Vulin, Pakošatane’s tourist board direc­tor; and about 30 other well-known olive grow­ers from the region.


Festivities with homemade spiza, wine, olive oil

In his wel­com­ing speech, Vulin praised Croatian pro­duc­ers, who earned 105 awards from 128 entries, the third-high­est total of awards for any coun­try.

We nar­rowly missed sec­ond place at the very end of the com­pe­ti­tion,” he added. Producers from Italy won 174 awards from 224 entries, while Spanish pro­duc­ers earned 106 hon­ors from 135 entries.

Officially, with 105 awards won, we are the third in the world, but in terms of the per­cent­age of suc­cess with regard to the num­ber of sam­ples, we are the first,” Vlatković said.

However, he lamented that the suc­cess of local olive oil pro­duc­ers in Dalmatia is not rec­og­nized by tourist boards, county author­i­ties or rel­e­vant agri­cul­tural min­istry depart­ments” as it has been in Istria.

It’s time for the tourists who visit us to finally find out that our olive oil is the best prod­uct they can take home with them,” Vulin said.

Pakoštane receives about 1 mil­lion overnight stays annu­ally, with another 12 mil­lion in nearby Zadar.

Vulin said if every tourist bought one liter of extra vir­gin olive oil, pro­duc­ers would sell 900,000 liters.

Producers at the event added that sup­port for olive groves is also miss­ing from the local gov­ern­ments, except for Pakoštane.

Vulin cited the mayor’s six-year-old effort to edu­cate local olive grow­ers about eval­u­at­ing olive oil qual­ity and milling best prac­tices as why they con­sider Pakoštane the excep­tion.

Respecting tra­di­tion, we encour­age new knowl­edge,” said Kurtov, the mayor. The goal is to edu­cate olive grow­ers to restore old trees and con­tinue to plant new olive groves and improve qual­ity year after year.”

After more than a half-decade, the results are show­ing. There are more than 150,000 olive trees in Pakoštane munic­i­pal­ity. Of the 1,700 fam­i­lies in the area, almost all have olive trees.

I am espe­cially happy that more and more young peo­ple are choos­ing to grow olives,” Kurtov said.

Along with Vulin, Lalin and Čudina, five or six other grow­ers in Pakoštane said they want to enter the 2024 NYIOOC.

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