`The Australian EVOO Show System - Olive Oil Times

The Australian EVOO Show System

Aug. 2, 2010
Richard Gawel

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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 fla­vors 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.

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.

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