Producers Across Spain Celebrate NYIOOC Success

Despite having inclement weather and the pandemic to contend with, Spanish producers had one of their best years at the industry's most prestigious competition.

Miguel Torres, founder of Torres Import
Jun. 21, 2021
By Clarissa Joshua
Miguel Torres, founder of Torres Import

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Part of our con­tin­u­ing spe­cial cov­er­age of the 2021 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.


Olive oil pro­duc­ers from Spain won 75 Gold and 29 Silver awards out of 148 entries, giv­ing the lead­ing olive oil-pro­duc­ing nation a 70 per­cent suc­cess rate at the 2021 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

While this fig­ure is slightly down from last year’s peak of 74 per­cent, Spanish pro­duc­ers have expe­ri­enced a gen­eral upward trend in olive oil qual­ity since 2014, when 50 per­cent of their entries were awarded.

The qual­ity of our oils is very impor­tant to us, and that enti­ties such as the NYIOOC endorse it is a recog­ni­tion of a job well done, espe­cially con­sid­er­ing that our project is very young.- Marta Rius Llop, qual­ity con­trol, Mil & Un Verd

While the vast major­ity of win­ning pro­duc­ers came from Andalusia, pro­duc­ers from Castilla-La Mancha, Catalonia, Extremadura, and Navarre also earned their fair share of Gold And Silver Awards.

Spanish pro­duc­ers had a lot to con­tend with in the past sea­son. Award-win­ning pro­duc­ers had the Covid-19 pan­demic at the fore­front of their minds.

Due to sev­eral lock­downs across the nation, extra vir­gin olive oil sales to the restau­rant, hotel, and cafes (Horeca) sec­tor dropped dras­ti­cally. While con­sumers bought more for their homes, this was not always enough to make up the dif­fer­ence.

The effects of cli­mate change also are being felt across the Iberian Peninsula. In 2020, Spain once again expe­ri­enced a hot and dry autumn fol­lowed by a record-break­ing cold win­ter. This meant the 2020/21 har­vest did not reach the antic­i­pated 1.6 mil­lion tons and is now expected to yield between 1.4 mil­lion and 1.45 mil­lion tons.

See Also: The Best Olive Oils from Spain

Still, this is a sig­nif­i­cant improve­ment from the pre­vi­ous crop year and a pos­i­tive sign of an upward shift. Along with olive oil pro­duc­tion, key met­rics of olive oil qual­ity also appear to be improv­ing in Spain.

Among the big win­ners from Spain was Casas de Hualdo, in Castilla-La Mancha, which earned two Gold and two Silver Awards from the 2021 NYIOOC.

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Photo: Casas de Hualdo.

Given the pro­lif­er­a­tion of com­pe­ti­tions around the world, a cou­ple of years ago, we decided to limit our par­tic­i­pa­tion in most of these com­pe­ti­tions dras­ti­cally,” Cristina Aizpún, the company’s sales direc­tor, told Olive Oil Times. However, the NYIOOC is an essen­tial appoint­ment to attend every year if you want to gain vis­i­bil­ity.”

The global pan­demic meant chal­lenges around com­mer­cial­iza­tion and logis­tics. The pro­duc­ers had to put a great amount of effort into imple­ment­ing strict safety mea­sures while still main­tain­ing qual­ity and ser­vice lev­els.

However, the pan­demic also rep­re­sented new oppor­tu­ni­ties.

We have rein­forced our pres­ence in the dig­i­tal envi­ron­ment to be able to over­come dis­tances and bring our project closer to all the pub­lic that have not had the oppor­tu­nity to visit our farm phys­i­cally,” Aizpún said. Virtual vis­its or the devel­op­ment of online com­merce have opened a new way of relat­ing to con­sumers from all over the world.”

Another award-win­ning pro­ducer from Castilla-La Mancha was a fam­ily-owned estate and olive oil mill, La Pontezuela. They have par­tic­i­pated in the NYIOOC since 2014, win­ning Gold for seven con­sec­u­tive years and one Silver Award for their Premium 5 Elementos brand.

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Photo: La Pontezuela

Martín Puga Castro, from the company’s mar­ket­ing and sales depart­ment, told Olive Oil Times that the NYIOOC award is recog­ni­tion of the excep­tional work car­ried out by their team of pro­fes­sion­als.

Their extra vir­gin olive oil is unique because the pro­duc­ers behind La Pontezuela con­trol the entire process with exhaus­tive over­sight at each stage.

We also have our own oil mill, located a few meters from the olive grove, so that from the time the olive is on the tree until it is trans­formed into juice, only a few hours pass,” he said. This fac­tor is key to pre­serve all the organolep­tic char­ac­ter­is­tics of our extra vir­gin olive oil, 5 Elementos.”

The pan­demic has com­pli­cated busi­ness trips and meet­ings, atten­dance at fairs and sales in some dis­tri­b­u­tion chan­nels. Given the social dis­tanc­ing rules, it has also touched their oleo­tourism line of busi­ness.

We carry out group guided vis­its to our olive mill and the Olivar Interpretation Center, located in Finca La Pontezuela,” Puga Castro said. It is a unique project, with more than 600 square meters ded­i­cated to the knowl­edge of the olive grove and its envi­ron­ment, and that incor­po­rates the most advanced audio­vi­sual means to make the visit an unfor­get­table expe­ri­ence: video map­ping, touch walls, etc.”

Award-win­ning pro­duc­ers in Catalonia also expe­ri­enced sim­i­lar chal­lenges, includ­ing the pan­demic and yield.

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Mil & Un Verd’s millenary trees. Photo: Marc Morella.

Mil & Un Verd took home one Gold for their Arbor Sacris oil, which comes from cer­ti­fied mil­lenary olive trees of the Farga vari­ety. The com­pany also earned a Silver Award for its Arbor Senium, a bal­anced blend of the Farga vari­ety and the Morrut vari­ety, obtained from their cen­te­nary olive trees.

The qual­ity of our oils is very impor­tant to us, and the NYIOOC endorse­ment it is a recog­ni­tion of a job well done, espe­cially con­sid­er­ing that our project is very young,” Marta Rius Llop, a mem­ber of Mil & Un Verd’s qual­ity depart­ment, told Olive Oil Times. For us, it is impor­tant to appear in these awards along­side other major award-win­ning brands, which for us are a bench­mark.”

While they had a suc­cess­ful out­come at the NYIOOC, Rius added, last year was hard for every­one, and we had to face two very clear dif­fi­cul­ties: the first, Covid-19, which forced us to impro­vise, adapt and improve our­selves, hav­ing to change our busi­ness objec­tives. The sec­ond was the decrease in expected pro­duc­tion com­pared to the pre­vi­ous year, which had been more pro­duc­tive.”

Another win­ner from Catalonia was Torres Import, which received a Gold Award for their Purgatori extra vir­gin olive oil.

europe-competitions-the-best-olive-oils-producers-across-spain-celebrate-nyiooc-success-olive-oil-times

Miguel Torres, the company’s founder. Photo: Torres Import

We are very proud to have won the award because we treat the land with the great­est pos­si­ble respect so that it gives us unbeat­able fruit,” Magda Martí Vargas, the company’s area man­ager, told Olive Oil Times. We cul­ti­vate native vari­eties of our area, Lérida, to achieve very spe­cial organolep­tic char­ac­ter­is­tics that are rec­og­niz­able on the nose and in the mouth.”

Like many other pro­duc­ers, she added that the Covid-19 pan­demic had com­pli­cated the logis­tics behind the har­vest.

Last year was a com­pli­cated year due to the Covid-19 cri­sis,” Martí Vargas said. To har­vest, we had to imple­ment safety pro­to­cols, doing pre­ven­tive tests on peo­ple who worked in the fields and pro­duc­tion. Each of the peo­ple involved in the processes to be car­ried out have had to fol­low very strict rules.”

Farther north­west of Catalonia, pro­duc­ers from Navarre earned mul­ti­ple Gold Awards at the World Competition, tak­ing advan­tage of their unique ter­roir to craft award-win­ning oils.

Bodega Nekeas was among these win­ning pro­duc­ers and took home a Gold Award for its Nekeas Arbequina. Mikel Azpilicueta, from the company’s mar­ket­ing depart­ment, said the NYIOOC had a pro­found impact on the com­pany.

The first impact is the injec­tion of morale that it gives to the whole team, in terms of mar­ket­ing. Awards in this cat­e­gory help enor­mously to defend and sell the prod­uct,” he said, adding that the team felt proud and the award con­firmed the advan­tages of their priv­i­leged geo­graph­i­cal loca­tion.

The main fac­tor that dif­fer­en­ti­ates us from other oils is that our olive grove is located fur­thest north on the penin­sula and at the high­est alti­tude,” Azpilicueta said. This con­fers a series of pos­i­tive attrib­utes, such as inten­sity and range of aro­mas, an ener­getic and ele­gant palate at the same time, and a sta­bil­ity of the oil over time that is dif­fi­cult to find in other lat­i­tudes.”


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