`The Australian EVOO Show System

Fairs, Competitions

The Australian EVOO Show System

Aug. 2, 2010
Richard Gawel

Recent News

By Dr. Richard Gawel

Late August marks the start of the Aus­tralian extra vir­gin olive oil show sea­son. The Aus­tralian Show sys­tem com­prises a group of major shows con­ducted under the aus­pices of the state Royal Agri­cul­tural and Hor­ti­cul­tural Soci­eties but organ­ised by the state olive asso­ci­a­tions (Royal(s) Ade­laide, Syd­ney, Perth, Can­berra, Mel­bourne and Bris­bane); a few small shows run by regional asso­ci­a­tions, and the Aus­tralian National organ­ised by the Aus­tralian Olive Asso­ci­a­tion. Many are in their 10th to 14th year.

The sys­tem has evolved to the point where most of them fol­low the same or sim­i­lar pro­to­cols.

As Chair­man of quite a few shows I get asked a lot of ques­tions about their con­duct. So I’ll have a go at them below.

What makes a good show judge? Good judges obvi­ously need good sen­sory skills. They also need to under­stand and be recep­tive to the diver­sity of flavours and styles that can be encoun­tered when judg­ing. The abil­ity to work con­struc­tively with other judges is also an impor­tant require­ment. Judges must be will­ing to weigh up the opin­ions of their col­leagues against their own.

Advertisement
Extra vir­gin olive oil judges retire to dis­cuss a class of oils at the Royal Can­berra Extra Vir­gin Olive Oil Show.

If a per­son enters an oil in a show does that pre­clude them from being a judge? No it doesn’t. The organ­is­ers invite the most expe­ri­enced judges when­ever pos­si­ble.

If an exhibitor is present as a judge, then doesn’t that mean that they judge their own oil? Absolutely not. This is how it works. The exhibits are divided into pre­vi­ously pub­lished groups called classes. While the classes are in place so that like’ oils are judged together, it also helps when divid­ing up the oils for judg­ing pur­poses.

In the event that a judge is also an exhibitor they are always allo­cated to a class in which their oil is not rep­re­sented. No excep­tions ever! Fur­ther­more, judges are for­bid­den to com­mu­ni­cate with judges from other pan­els until the judg­ing has con­cluded and the results have been offi­cially sub­mit­ted. It’s also worth point­ing out that at Inter­na­tional shows like the Los Ange­les Inter­na­tional, judges do not judge oils entered from their coun­try.

Imag­ine being a judge who has entered an oil in the show. You are sit­ting down judg­ing a set of oils with a cou­ple of other judges. Over the other side of the room some­where, and at some point dur­ing the day, your oil will come out amongst a set of 20 or 30 oth­ers all served up in tast­ing glasses iden­ti­fied only with ran­dom codes. It will be scored by three other judges. Each judg­ing team does their job, talk­ing to no-one until all their results are safely in the hands of the stew­ard.

As an aside…. I cal­cu­lated the median score given to oils in last year’s Aus­tralian National Show which their pro­ducer was present as a judge vs when they were not. And the results were….

Judge not present = 14.0 Bronze: Judge present = 14.0 Bronze.

The dis­tri­b­u­tions in scores also didn’t dif­fer.* None of this was sur­pris­ing as judges don’t have any­thing to do with their own oils. Some­one else judges them.

If a judge is an exhibitor and their oil is a can­di­date for the best of show, then surely they can influ­ence the out­come? Again, no they can’t. While all the judges are ini­tially invited to assess the oils for best of show, in the event that a judge has an inter­est in a can­di­date oil, their entire score sheet is dis­carded prior to the eval­u­a­tions being tal­lied. Yep trashed.

So why bother with allow­ing them to taste the oils for best of show in the first place if you are just going to dis­card their eval­u­a­tion sheet? It’s the fairest way if doing it. Think about it for a moment. If the other judges were made aware that a judge had been pre­cluded then it could poten­tially bias the opin­ions of the eli­gi­ble judges as they would know that one of the can­di­date oils was pro­duced by the pre­cluded judge.

Dis­tri­b­u­tion of polyphe­nol lev­els in oils sub­mit­ted to the 2009 Aus­tralian National Extra Vir­gin Olive Oil Show. The aver­age scores for each group are given in black. First group = 0 – 100mg/kg polyphe­nols.

Do judges favour one style of oil over another? Any judge that announces that they have a style pref­er­ence will have a very short judg­ing career! Good judges appre­ci­ate and under­stand the diver­sity in extra vir­gin olive oils. Here are the results from last years Aus­tralian National Show with the oils grouped based on polyphe­nols level (i.e. 0 – 100, 101 – 200, 201 – 300 mg/kg etc), with the aver­age scores given in black above each bar. The polyphe­nols level is a very good indi­ca­tor of the robust­ness of an oil. Low polyphe­nols = mild gen­tle oil and High polyphe­nols = bitter/peppery oil. The results speak for them­selves. While there are some dif­fer­ences between groups, the dif­fer­ences are not sys­tem­atic. The most robust oils (> 500 mg/kg) had an almost iden­ti­cal aver­age score to the medio style oils which came in between 200 and 300 mg/kg of polyphe­nols.

Do Aus­tralian judges get paid for judg­ing? No, they don’t. In addi­tion to freely giv­ing their time and skills they also cover their own travel and accom­mo­da­tion costs in most cases. Hope­fully this oner­ous sit­u­a­tion
will change in the future.

If I wanted to see for myself how a show was con­ducted, could I? Absolutely. In the shows in which I pre­side, inter­ested observers are wel­come to qui­etly view pro­ceed­ings and ask ques­tions of me at any time.

* for the sta­tis­ti­cal geeks. chi squared = 2.12, p=0.549 not sig­nif­i­cant.

.

.This arti­cle was repro­duced with per­mis­sion.

.

Richard Gawel has been a long time appointee as Pre­sid­ing Judge of most of the major olive oil shows includ­ing the Royal Ade­laide, Royal Perth, Royal Can­berra and the Aus­tralian National Show, and inter­na­tion­ally at the New Zealand National and Los Ange­les Inter­na­tional Extra Vir­gin olive oil shows. Mr. Gawel headed Australia’s first Inter­na­tional Olive Coun­cil rec­og­nized export tast­ing panel since its incep­tion in 1997 until 2006, and reg­u­larly con­ducts nation-wide indus­try sem­i­nars and work­shops in basic and advanced olive oil tast­ing, blend­ing, and olive oil show judg­ing. A mem­ber of Tech­ni­cal com­mit­tee of the Aus­tralian Olive Asso­ci­a­tion, he has pub­lished a num­ber of sci­en­tific papers on olive oil assess­ment and acts as a con­sul­tant taster and blender for a num­ber of Aus­tralian olive oil com­pa­nies. Slick Extra Vir­gin is Mr. Gawel’s blog.

Related News