Flos is the Latin word for “the best” and Flos Olei has as its objective the profiling of the world’s best olive oils and their producers. Marco Oreggia, a Rome-based journalist and expert in wine and olive oil, is its publisher, and he jointly edits it with Laura Marinelli. Oreggia was behind another guide to olive oils, which was called L’Extravergine, but the current guide has supplanted it. This is the third year for Flos Olei and Flos Olei 2012 will be launched in Rome in late November. The guide is in both Italian and English and costs €30.

The producers listed in the guide are also competitors for some 20 prizes, and the results of the competition have already been announced. The Olive Oil Mill of the Year award went to the Italian producer, Azienda Agraria Viola, an Umbrian family business that consistently produces award-winning results. The Best Extra Virgin Olive Oil of the Year prize went to the Azienda Agricola Biologica Titone in Sicily, for their Titone, a DOP Valli Trapanesi Biologico. Both of these are organic producers, like many in the top 20 list.

Azienda Agricola Biologica Titone was awarded Best Extra Virgin Olive Oil of the Year. Founded in 1936, the Titone family’s farm in Sicily grows Cerasuola, Nocellara del Belice and Biancolilla cultivars on 4,900 trees to produce about 4,000 liters of organic extra virgin.

Since Oreggia’s journalistic activity has been centered in Italy, it stands to reason that most of the producers who have presented their oils for vetting and inclusion in the guide are Italian. By my count, the guide lists 461 producers worldwide, with 259 coming from Italy. European producers account for 395 of the total; North (1) and South America (34) have a combined 35; Asia has 16; Oceania has 8; and Africa has 7.

On the country level, there are some interesting figures. For example, Croatia with 49 entrants comes in second behind Italy’s 259, and just ahead of Spain’s 48 producers. Another comparison can be made between Japan, which has 7 producers in the guide, and Greece which has just 4. As the guide becomes better known around the world, one can expect to have more representative numbers. In order to submit oil, producers must send a sample large enough to be tasted by an expert panel, provide a chemical analysis, respond to a lengthy questionnaire, and include fees starting at €80. Details of how to enter can be found here.

Prizes are awarded to two broad categories, those for millers and those for growers and are judged by a panel of expert tasters. For millers, the prizes go to the best mill of the year, an emerging mill, a frontier mill, and a “Made with Love” mill. For the producers, the categories are best extra virgin olive oil of the year, best organic, best organic and DOP/IGP, best extraction method, best quality/quantity, best quality/packaging, best quality/price; in addition to 3 levels of fruitiness (light, medium, and intense) prizes for monovarietals, blended oils, DOP/IGP oils; and a prize named after the journalist Cristina Tiliacos and awarded for olive oil ambassadorship.

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