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Elite Tasters Scrutinize 700 Olive Oils in New York

Apr. 18, 2013
Michael Goodwin

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Fabienne Roux, from France, and Cesar Colliga from Spain are among 16 judges on the New York International Olive Oil Competition panel.

Some of the New York International Olive Oil Competition sem­i­nar pro­gram atten­dees met for an after­noon olive oil tast­ing at Fairway Market, but the competition’s judges remained at the International Culinary Center, hard at work. As com­peti­tors, olive oil mer­chants, and sem­i­nar par­tic­i­pants enjoyed today’s beau­ti­ful weather, the judges con­tin­ued their ardu­ous task indoors, sam­pling hun­dreds of oils.

Led by Dr. Gino Celletti, chair­man of the Monocultivar Olive Oil Council, a panel of 16 judges is work­ing tire­lessly, tast­ing and scru­ti­niz­ing the olive oils in time to announce the results tomor­row evening.

Representing 10 dif­fer­ent coun­tries across Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas, the judges have the mas­sive chal­lenge of select­ing the win­ners in 24 diverse cat­e­gories among the entries from 22 dif­fer­ent coun­tries.

Each of the 700 is an extra vir­gin oil from the com­pe­ti­tion crop year. To ensure a fair com­pe­ti­tion, the oils are assigned a ran­dom code and masked with opaque wrap­ping for judg­ing.

Participants at yesterday’s sem­i­nars were given a small win­dow into the offi­cial tast­ing process. Not only did Dr. Celletti present on the sci­ence of mono­va­ri­etals, for which many of tomorrow’s awards will be given, but the audi­ence also heard from judges Paul Vossen and Lina Smith.

Vossen, who cur­rently heads the University of California’s taste panel, explained exactly how a judge ana­lyzes olive oil based on its fla­vor. The process is closely con­nected to a chem­i­cal under­stand­ing of oil’s com­po­nents. Only with a refined palate, and a pro­found sense for sub­tleties in fruiti­ness, bit­ter­ness, and pun­gency, can the slight­est defects be detected.

The entries, which com­pete for awards in cat­e­gories based on geo­graphic ori­gin, inten­sity and vari­etals, are also divided between organic and non-organic oils.

After tomorrow’s full day of sem­i­nars on olive oil trade, brand­ing, and global mar­kets, the win­ners will be announced at a press con­fer­ence, fol­lowed by the gala awards din­ner. Though lit­tle time remains, this year’s elite panel will surely fin­ish in time to honor the com­pe­ti­tions wor­thi­est entries with their cov­eted recog­ni­tion.

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