Australia / NZ
New Zealand producers earned a record-setting seven awards from eight entries at the 2020 edition of the world's most prestigious olive oil quality contest.
Part of our continuing coverage of the 2020 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.
“Delighted,” “thrilled” and “rapt” were some expressions New Zealand’s producers used in response to earning seven Gold Awards at the 2020 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.
The country’s total was three more than they won at the 2019 edition of the competition. New Zealanders won six more Golds this time around.
The New Zealand industry is boutique by nature and while it may not have the volume production, this is more than compensated in the outstanding quality.
The competition’s 584 winning oils were announced one at a time during an interactive presentation that ran daily from Monday through Friday on the official results website.
Olives New Zealand executive officer Gayle Sheridan described this year as an outstanding one for New Zealand, which has won Gold Awards at the competition every year since 2016.
“Olives New Zealand extends its congratulations to the New Zealand winners and to all the other winners,” Sheridan said.
“Olives New Zealand sent our five top winning gold medal oils from the 2019 New Zealand Extra Virgin Olive Oil Awards to New York, and they all won Gold,” she added, in reference to the brands carried by Olives New Zealand: Woodside Bay, Kakariki, Kapiti, Old French Road and Olea Estate brands.
“These Gold Award-winning oils are representative of the wider New Zealand industry,” Sheridan said. “The New Zealand olive industry is a relatively young industry on an international scale, with most of our plantings being in 1999 to 2001.”
“According to the Olives New Zealand grove census, there are 350,000 olive trees planted with the majority of groves having less than 1,000 trees,” she added. “Therefore, the New Zealand industry is boutique by nature and while it may not have the volume production, this is more than compensated in the outstanding quality.”
“You need fastidious attention to detail in the production of the best-quality extra virgin olive oil, but the beautiful Wairarapa climate and soil have to be the biggest contributing factor,” he said.
Brenda Gregory, who co-owns Kakariki in Redwood Valley, Nelson, together with her husband, Ray, said they were “absolutely thrilled to have won a Gold Award for their oil,” referring to their medium Mediterranean blend.
Gregory said they were “super proud that New Zealand olive oil is and can be recognized as world-class.”
“We think this is a huge achievement for Olives New Zealand and all New Zealand growers,” she added.
Gregory attributed their success to particular grove management strategies that are well-suited to New Zealand’s growing conditions and being able to harvest and press in the shortest time possible.
“We are a very hands-on grove and pride ourselves on doing all the work ourselves,” she said.
John Goodwin who owns Woodside Bay, with a small grove of 200 olive trees, on Waiheke Island with his wife, Angela, said they were “delighted to be honored with this award” for their medium blend.
He added they were very excited when Olives New Zealand told them their oil was being entered to the NYIOOC.
“Rather naively, we had assumed that the contest would not be able to proceed because of COVID-19, so it was just amazing when we received a text in the middle of the night, to tell us that our oil had won a Gold Award on the world stage,” he said.
“As a romantic,” Angela Goodwin said, “I will tell you that our olives succeed because they are tended with love. As a horticulturist, John will credit our terroir, maritime climate and husbandry, which keep our trees disease-free and therefore spray-free.”
“We think the standard of New Zealand’s olive oils has just been getting better and better as the artisanal nature of the product has developed,” she added. “And our buyers have become increasingly discerning as to the nature of the oil they are buying.”
New Zealand’s olive oil industry is small and relatively new. I’m proud to see our producers punching above their weight by creating high-quality products that compete on the world stage.
Jan Whyte, co-owner of Old French Road Olive Grove, in Takamatua on Banks Peninsula, together with her husband, Niall Holland, said being awarded a Gold for their medium Picholine is very satisfying as it is verification that the standards being applied for the New Zealand awards are at least as rigorous as in New York.
“On a more personal level,” Whyte said, “it feels like a very happy reward for all the care and attention we give to our grove, and confirmation that what we are doing is working well.”
Whyte attributed the pair’s success to putting a lot of effort into controlling disease through good pruning practice, soil maintenance, frequent mowing and a carefully managed spray regime.
“We are meticulous in our harvesting processes with branches shaken onto nets, careful de-leafing and ensuring processing occurs within 24 hours of harvest,” she said.
Additionally, the pair “operate at a climatic margin for olive trees which seems to help improve flavor,” Whyte said.
“We can produce great fruit, but we still need a good press to achieve great oil. We are very thankful to Ray McClelland at Waipara Olive Processors for running the press so well,” she concluded.
Helen Walshaw, who co-owns Kapiti in Te Horo, north of Wellington on the Kapiti Coast, with her husband, David, said they “were absolutely rapt to win a Gold Award at the NYIOOC [for our medium Picual blend] and awoke to the exciting news with a text message from Olives New Zealand.”
Walshaw added that they have worked hard on every aspect of their olive oil production, from the tree health to pressing within 24 hours and storing the oil under the best possible conditions.
“We then aim to develop our tasting and blending abilities to achieve Gold Award-winning olives oils,” she said. “That is our goal every year.”
New Zealand’s minister of agriculture, Damien O’Connor, congratulated the winners “who should all be very proud of this huge achievement.”
“New Zealand’s olive oil industry is small and relatively new,” O’Connor said. “I’m proud to see our producers punching above their weight by creating high-quality products that compete on the world stage.”
O’Connor said these seven awards “are testament to their hard work, focus on sustainable production and great understanding of growing exceptional olives in New Zealand conditions.”
He said the government is proud to partner with their olive industry through the Sustainable Food & Fiber Futures fund to boost olive production through sustainable techniques.
“This work has already had considerable success,” O’Connor said. “I am excited for the future of New Zealand’s olive industry and broader food and fiber sector as we look to our next wave of innovation and transformation. Even though olives are relatively new for New Zealand, we can see a vibrant industry developing.”