Complimenti, Italia! This year, Italian olive oil swept the New York International Olive Oil Competition (NYIOOC) with 109 awards, the most from any country.
Twenty-six countries from around the world submitted olive oil to be tasted and evaluated by the NYIOOC international panel of expert judges. This year’s competition marked the fourth annual NYIOOC and the largest international collection of olive oils ever assembled. After Italy, Spain, took home the second highest number of awards, 78. The United States came in third place with 50.
From the incredibly stiff competition, Italy’s olive oil producers emerged at the top. It was a “remarkable achievement by Italian producers who suffered one of the worst harvests in recent history just a year ago,” said Curtis Cord, president of the NYIOOC.
See more: The Best Italian Olive Oils for 2016
During the 2014/2015 harvest season, Italy fell victim to a bacterial blight that destroyed around 40 perfect of olive oil production, crippling growers. Many Italian producers were not able to make any olive oil at all last season.
Among them was Lucia Verdacchi Pinelli, who makes extra virgin olive oil at Fontanaro Estate in Umbria. Her oil took home a Silver Award at the 2014 NYIOOC, but she and her partner were forced to bow out in 2015. “Last year we did not produce at all,” she said, because of the poor conditions. “It was so sad to let the fruits go unpicked.”
The crippling harvest caused a reduced Italian presence at NYIOOC with 100 entries compared to 141 in 2014. This year, Italy’s showing was stronger than ever. The country sent nearly 200 brands to compete for the coveted Silver, Gold and Best in Class awards — a strong sign of resurgence. 58 percent of Italian entrants received awards — the highest success rate among the major participating countries.
“We are in love with everything about olive oil,” said Pinelli, whose family has been producing oil for five generations in the hills surrounding the Trasimeno. At their own mill, olives are cold pressed within three hours of the olive picking to guarantee the very best quality. “For us, olive oil is life.”
Her family’s dedication and her olive oil’s sky-high quality earned Fontanaro a Gold Award this year. “I am so pleased,” she said, beaming with joy and pride. “Our friends know what we do, our family knows, but what I find is amazing is that the knowledge outside Italy is growing, thanks to the NYIOOC.”
Six Italian extra-virgins won the highly coveted Best in Class awards: 75 were awarded Gold, and 28 received Silver. Among the best in class winners were Colle del Giachi’s D.O.P. Chianti Classico, from olives typically found high in the Chianti hills. The oil is well-balanced, with intense golden-green color and super low acidity.
La Bandiera, crafted in the wine-growing area of Bolgheri on the coast of Tuscany, Italy, also won a best in class this year. It is a single-estate, organic olive oil from three varietals with plenty of robust, full-bodied flavor. They were joined by many more.