Part of our continuing special coverage of the 2021 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.
Producers from across the Balkan Peninsula enjoyed a record year at the 2021 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.
While the most awards went to Croatian producers, entrants from Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina also earned a record-high number of awards at the world’s most prestigious olive oil quality competition.
I feel grateful. This award means we are producing olive oil the right way. It’s repayment for all our hard work.
Seven Slovenian producers earned Gold Awards at the competition after the small central European country enjoyed a near-record harvest.
According to International Olive Council data, Slovenia produced 800 tons of olive oil in the 2020/21 crop year, the second-highest total on record and about 42 percent above the rolling five-year average. Slovenian olive oil production is almost exclusively limited to the Istrian peninsula and Goriška.
Among the winners at this year’s edition of the contest was Villa Eva. Situated between the Julian Alps and the Adriatic Sea, the family estate earned its Gold Award for an organic medium Bianchera.See Also: The Best Olive Oils from Slovenia
The roots of Villa Eva originate with three women who ran the farm and accompanying shop, which the family’s great grandmother founded, since 1920. Since then, the company has shifted its focus to organic olive oil production and rents out villas on the property to tourists.
The groves are located in the picturesque landscape of Goriška, which sits right on the hilly border with Italy and boasts an ideal micro-climate for olive cultivation.
The family’s forebearers established that the Istrska and Bjelica varieties thrived well in the area. The Bjelica variety is distinguished by its rich aroma, whereas the Istrska olive is spicy and a little bitter. The family’s focus is on quality as opposed to quantity, with an emphasis on indigenous olive varieties. The olive groves are dominated by Drobnica, Črnica and Istrska Bjelica trees.
“We feel immensely happy and proud to be noticed at such an important competition,” Timon Brataševec, Villa Eva’s co-owner, told Olive Oil Times. “For our entire family and employees, this is a great recognition and proof that we are working in the right direction. Winning the NYIOOC gives us new strength and energy for the future.”
“We are convinced that this recognition will open new sales opportunities for us in the world as well,” he added. “We have been applying for competitions for many years and now we are achieving exceptionally good results.”
Villa Eva had a catastrophic harvest in 2019 due to inclement weather, which inhibited flowering and ripening, and resulted in a low yield. Luckily, nature offered excellent results last year, even though there was widespread fear of the olive fruit fly.
It may be a little early to predict this year’s harvest as the olives are in bloom until mid-June, but Brataševec is hoping for another good year.
“After flowering, it will be shown a little more clearly what the harvest will be like, if the weather conditions continue to be favorable and not affected by the olive fly, which is our natural enemy,” Brataševec said.
Located not far from the groves of Villa Eva, also in Goriška, the producers behind the Kmetija Drnovšček Estate also celebrated a hard-earned win at the NYIOOC.
The company took home a Gold Award for its robust organic Bjelica after producing 1,800 liters of organic extra virgin olive oil in 2020.
“I feel grateful. This award means we are producing olive oil the right way,” owner Matej Drnovšček told Olive Oil Times. “It’s repayment for all our hard work.”
Drnovšček started producing olive oil back in 2000, with a specific focus on the auctoctonous Črnica and Drobnica varieties, though he has planted four others as well. Like many other producers in the region, he cited warding off the olive fruit fly as the biggest challenge in what was otherwise a very fruitful harvest.
“Our main challenge was managing the fruit fly by doing proper tree pruning, monitoring and protecting the olives organically,” Drnovšček said.
Situated about 60 kilometers south of Goriška, in the upper corner of the Istrian peninsula, the producers behind Aegida celebrated their first-ever win at the World Competition.
“This award means a lot to us, we are very glad,” co-owner Andrej Kaluza told Olive Oil Times. “Producing high-quality oil is a challenge, but we love our trees and this helps a lot.”
Kaluza and his wife founded the olive grove in 2013, restoring a grove that had been abandoned for more than 50 years, and have gone on to cultivate 500 trees of the Istrska Bjelica, Leccino and Leccio del Corno varieties. The producers earned their Gold Award for a monovarietal Leccio del Corno.
Not far from the groves of Aegida, the producers behind Morgan Cuvee celebrated winning their fifth Gold Award at the NYIOOC.
“We feel very excited and happy, and most of all proud of our olive oil and our family for doing great work,” co-owners Franc and Jenny Morgan told Olive Oil Times. “It will definitely have a positive impact on our brand and also on Slovenian olive oil as Slovenia is known for good olive oil worldwide.”
Along with hard work, the Morgans also attributed their success to the geography of Slovenia’s Istrian peninsula.
“Probably the main reason [our oils standout] is because of our geographical position, which influences the oil taste since our trees are positioned quite high above sea level (230 meters) and on the sunny side of local hills,” they said. “The taste is unique in the sense of bitterness, freshness and spiciness.”
Along with many other Slovenian producers, the Morgans enjoyed a bountiful harvest, producing roughly 3,000 liters of olive oil, a 15-percent increase compared with the previous year.
“Like every producer, we also depend on the weather,” they said. “Last year, the weather was quite stable, and we managed to obtain the best from our trees.”
“Also, the olive fly was not so aggressive and consequently, the olives matured in their normal way, which led us to excellent olive oil quality,” the pair added.
Situated just east of Dalmatia, in the rolling hills of Herzegovina, two producers from Bosnia and Herzegovina also celebrated their success at the 2021 NYIOOC.See Also: The Best Olive Oils from Bosnia and Herzegovina
The combined Gold and Silver Awards won by the two producers was the highest total yet from the landlocked republic.
For the fourth consecutive year, the Škegro Family Winery earned a Gold Award for its Krš brand, a medium blend of handpicked Oblica, Pendolino, Casaliva, Lastovka, Levantinka, Leccino and Cipressino olives.
The family, which is already renowned for its wines, has 300 olive oil trees dotting the estate in Ljubuški, just east of the Croatian border.
During the harvest season, the entire family takes part in the olive oil production process from start to finish. Barisa Škegro said that cultivation is challenging as the olive groves are located on hills, but added the family’s hardwork is rewarded with quality olive oil.
The Škegro family produced 200 liters of olive oil in the last harvest, overcoming the challenges created by the uncertainty of the Covid-19 pandemic. Škegro added that he is optimistic for this year’s harvest as the weather so far has been good.
“We are proud and full of happiness because our hard work has been recognized… despite the Covid-19 pandemic, which put an end to normal production,” he said.