The annual presentation of Marco Oreggia and Laura Marinelli’s Flos Olei guide, now at its 7th edition, is an important reference book for the sector, offering a wide overview of the business while featuring new producing countries every year.

Armenia is the 49th country to be included, for the first time, in the 2016 edition soon to be launched in Rome on November 28. Once again, the elegant halls of Westin Excelsior Hotel on via Veneto will be the location.

Intended as an opportunity to spread olive oil culture to professionals and the public, the Flos Olei event will not only focus on the morning launch of the guide, but also on creating business and learning opportunities through B2B meetings and guided tastings. This year’s program also includes cooking masterclasses featuring renowned Italian and foreign chefs and experts.

Attendees will be able to taste many of the extra virgin olive oils featured in the guide hailing from around the world and a selection of Italian wines and food. A smaller room will host guided tastings led by Marco Oreggia and Laura Marinelli, while a dedicated space with a cooking station will host classes with chefs and pastry-chefs on how to use extra virgin olive oil to cook or season specific ingredients, from salmon to chocolate.

“These are not intended to be cooking demos to show off the chefs’ skills,” Oreggia pointed out, “but educational moments to outline the products quality and characteristics.” Well-known chefs from Italy and abroad will illustrate simple recipes matching them to different oils and composing an overall menu.

Salvatore Tassa, acclaimed chef/owner of Colline Ciociare near Rome, will prepare a Salmon Gin Tonic appetizer; Paolo Dalicandro, chef and teacher at the A Scuola con lo Chef Roman cooking school, and Philippe Tresch, chef at the Italian restaurant La Perla in Lucerne, Switzerland, will both use pasta (egg pasta and durum wheat pasta) for their recipes; Tuscan butcher Simone Fracassi will show how he pours extra virgin on his fantastic tartare and “battuta” (a different kind of raw meat preparation) while Michele Martinelli, chef at Locanda Martinelli near Livorno, will offer an unusual tasting: Cioccòlio, chocolate praline with an extra virgin filling.

The 2016 Flos Olei guide features 49 countries, 500 producers and 692 extra virgin olive oils. In this year’s “Best 20” list, for the first time, Spain overtook Italy achieving eight awards including the Farm of the Year (Castillo de Canena) and the Best Extra Virgin Olive Oil of the Year (the excellent Finca La Torre Selección Organic).

Italy, which in past guides received at least ten awards, received seven this time.

The surge of quality oils from Spain has been reflected in Oreggia’s guide over the last three years, both in the number of awards and the number and featured farms (from 30 to 106). Not only are the top oils hailing from traditional producing regions such as Andalusia, but Castilla La Mancha and Navarra are increasingly represented. Chile, Portugal, Turkey, Slovenia and Argentina also made the top 20.

Lithuanian company Itališko Skonio Gurmanai was awarded Importer of the Year, while the Cristina Tiliacos Award went to the Italian company Mori-Tem, for creating technologies for olive pressing.

“The Flos Olei guide,” Oreggia said, “demonstrates that quality extra virgin olive oil has no borders. Once it only regarded a few producing countries, but today things have changed and knowledge has spread, letting other countries achieve outstanding results.

Croatian Istria has been proving very successful over the last years, with a very good average quality even though this year it received no awards, while Greece surprised us reacting to the arduous harvest and to the economic crisis with a decisive turning point towards quality and foreign markets.”

Oreggia sees his guide as an instrument for those who want to develop a better understanding of the extra virgin olive oil industry: “The average quality has showed a steady growth, but we still have to face serious problems of territorial and cultural identity: the guide aims to offer a ‘decoding’ tool to the sector’s diffused confusion.”

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