Part of our continuing special coverage of the 2021 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.
Producers from across the Southern Cone celebrated a successful year at the 2021 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition, overcoming the uncertainty of the Covid-19 pandemic and ongoing drought to produce some of the world’s best olive oils.
Comprising Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, producers from the three countries combined to earn 13 awards from 20 entries.
The results obtained at the 2021 NYIOOC confirm the work that has been done, recognizing the effort of the producers who are seeking to produce high-quality oils.
However, the biggest winners from South America’s southern peninsula at this year’s edition of the world’s most prestigious olive oil quality competition was Chile.
Producers from the long and narrow country situated between the Pacific Ocean and Andes mountains took home five Gold Awards and four Silver Awards from 11 entries, the country’s second-largest medal haul at the competition and highest success rate by a large margin.
Producers from Chile – as well as Argentina and Uruguay – were some of the first to harvest during the Covid-19 pandemic, before the scientific community really had a grasp on the disease’s pathologies or how it spread.See Also: Best Olive Oils from Chile
Despite this uncertainty, Chilean producers carefully managed the harvest and were largely unaffected by outbreaks among their workers. They also overcame increasingly dry conditions to once again craft award-winning extra virgin olive oils.
“For the entire Alonso team, winning these awards was a joy and pride, especially after the difficult year that we have all lived through due to the pandemic,” José Manuel Reyes, the company’s commercial manager, told Olive Oil Times. “It is an award that confirms our work, what we have been doing over the years and motivates us to remain focused on producing high quality.”
Looking at the bigger picture, Reyes said that he believes these awards are good for Chile as a whole, putting their best oils on par with those from traditional olive oil-producing countries.
“Chile is a great producer of quality olive oil, and I believe that over the years we have managed to position the name of Chile at the top of the olive oil world,” he said. “The results obtained at the 2021 NYIOOC confirm the work that has been done, recognizing the effort of the producers who are seeking to produce high-quality oils.”
In the 2019/20 crop year, Chile produced about 20,000 tons of olive oil, International Olive Council data show, of which 15,500 tons were exported. As a result, producers from across the country said that NYIOOC awards serve as a passport for their oils onto supermarket shelves of Brazil, Europe and North America.
This is certainly the case for Olivos Ruta del Sol, which earned a Gold and Silver Award for a medium and delicate blend, respectively.
“These awards help a lot to strengthen our relationship with our business partners in New York City and the rest of the United States,” Fernando Carrasco Spano, the company’s CEO, told Olive Oil Times. “It is a seal of quality and the consequence of the work and vision that moves us.”
He added that he was especially happy to see the Fine Selection brand, the delicate blend, earn its first awards from the NYIOOC.
Spano said that the secret to the company’s success was complete control of the production process. However, 2020 complicated the company’s usual harvest routine, with Covid-19-related travel bans preventing their usual experts from coming in and helping during the milling process.
“Our main international collaborators could not be here during harvest,” he said. “We worked with a young team, who were very committed to the brand and the product vision.”
“Without a doubt, the greatest threats that we had to face due to our location are the water shortage during the summer months and the frosts during the autumn and winter months,” Carolina Terc, the company’s marketing manager, told Olive Oil Times. “We are very proud to see the result of consistent work year after year, in which we give our best to obtain quality olive oil.”
Despite the challenges created by the climate of the Casablanca Valley, which is located just east of the Chilean capital, Santiago, Terc added that the same climate is what helps the company’s olive oils to stand out.
“Our oil, which comes from a valley influenced by the Pacific Ocean, such as the Casablanca Valley, is characterized by its green fruity origin from the incomplete ripening of the fruit at harvest time,” she said.
Along with Spano, Terc believes that continuing to win awards at the NYIOOC will help carve out a niche for her brand in the international market.
“Without a doubt, the award obtained in the NYIOOC competition… will contribute to the positioning of our oil among the best in the world,” she said. “We hope this represents a tool that allows us to consolidate ourselves in the North American market and in this way reach a greater number of households in the United States.”
While all Chilean producers agreed that winning at the World Competition helped make their brands more competitive, the producers behind Olivos del Sur, Olisur for short, said their Silver Award also validated their ecological approach to olive oil production.
“To win an award is always a great feeling, even more, when this is the result of a lot of people’s efforts,” Claudio Lovazzano, the company’s marketing manager, told Olive Oil Times. “In our case, a Silver Award speaks of consistency in our high quality and great aromas and flavor.”
“What sets us apart as Olivos del Sur, is our commitment to the environment. Producing the world’s best extra virgin olive oil is only part of our mission,” he added. “Doing so in an environmentally responsible manner is equally as important, which is why we can proudly claim we are a carbon-neutral certified company.”
However, the effort to become more environmentally friendly is also driven out of necessity for producers in central Chile. The ongoing drought continues to present challenges in providing the trees with adequate amounts of water.
“2020 was difficult not only because of the Covid-19 challenges, as we needed to change our way of work to avoid any kind of contagion and take care of our people but also because of the drought that has affected our country over the past several years,” Lovazzano said.
“In an effort to give back to the planet, we aim to offset our carbon emissions by reducing, reusing and recycling,” he added. “That way, not only can we become the world’s top extra virgin olive oil brand, but we can feel good about doing so. And the award serves as a recognition of all that.”See Also: Best Olive Oils from Argentina
While Chile was the biggest winner among the three Southern Cone nations, it was not the only one. On the other side of the Andes, two Argentine producers combined to win a Gold and Silver Award at the World Competition.
Olive oil production reached 30,000 tons in Argentina in 2020 as a combination of producers entering an off-year and others having trouble finding workers during the country’s strict lockdown contributed to a lower yield than expected.
However, receiving international recognition from the NYIOOC is one of the best ways to cap off a challenging year and for the producers behind the San Juan-based Establecimiento Olivum, earning a Silver Award was no exception.
“This is the third consecutive year that they have awarded our medium blend,” Maria Gabriela Panelli, the company’s commercial manager, told Olive Oil Times. “Our oils are the fruit of a lot of effort and dedication. That they are recognized by such prestigious juries as those of NYIOOC gives us immense pride and satisfaction.”
Like Chile, Argentina was also one of the first countries to begin harvesting during the pandemic, and the team at Olivum had to work through the uncertainty to keep everyone safe while accomplishing the harvest.
“Without a doubt, the pandemic was a challenge that we all had to face, defining protocols to be able to move forward with the harvest and production of the oils,” Panelli said.
However, the company overcame the pandemic-related obstacles and once again proved they can compete with the best in the world.
“Our quality resides in constant work; sustained investment; an early harvest; the selection of fruit before grinding and the commitment of our people in their daily work and in the care of the oils,” Panelli said. “Having an NYIOOC award again confirms the maintenance of our quality year after year.”See Also: Best Olive Oils from Uruguay
Continuing east, on the other side of the Rio de la Plata, two Uruguayan producers combined to win the country’s first two NYIOOC awards since 2019. Furthermore, the Gold and Silver Award are the most earned by Uruguayan producers at the competition since 2017.
After a record-breaking harvest in 2019, Uruguay experienced a much smaller harvest in 2020, with a springtime frost during the blossoming period significantly damaging many of the country’s trees. After producing 2,800 tons in 2019, the 2020 harvest fell to just 700 tons.
Yet this did not dampen the spirits of the winning producers, who told Olive Oil Times that winning at the NYIOOC was extremely satisfying after the tough harvest.
“This year we participated, because I was satisfied with the product,” Victor Rodríguez, the olive oil production manager at Agroland SA, told Olive Oil Times. “The joy [of winning] was very great. Since 2016, we have not participated and to do it again and win a Gold Award, is a proud moment.”
Rodríguez added that the harvest has already been completed in Uruguay and while the 2021 yield will not reach the levels of 2019, he is optimistic about the future.
In addition to an improved yield, he hopes that this NYIOOC award will help the company market its brand.
“I hope the impact of winning at the NYIOOC is very good. I understand that it is a commercial tool, which we have to know how to take advantage of,” he said. These awards are not always obtained, especially at such a prestigious international contest.”