Despite a sharp drop in production due to Europe’s prolonged drought, the number of French entries at the World Competition has progressively increased over the years.
Producers from France combined to earn four Gold and seven Silver Awards at the 2023 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.
Local producers have increasingly been recognized for their extra virgin olive oils at the world’s largest olive oil contest. This year’s competition attracted its second-highest number of entrants from the Mediterranean country. For the second year running, French producers won 11 awards.
Before harvesting last year, producers predicted their results would be significantly lower than the previous year’s.See Also:The Best EVOOs From France
Many blamed the impacts of drought, with the summer of 2022 being France’s driest of the last five centuries, bringing extended heatwaves, a lack of rainfall and a sharp production drop as anticipated.
“For the French olive sector, obtaining awards at international competitions is a source of pride,” said Alexandra Paris, the director of communications for France Olive, France’s interprofessional association of its olive sector.
“It is recognition not only for the work of these producers but also for the work carried out by the entire sector for 30 years,” she added.
Paris said winning awards at the NYIOOC rewards decisions such as prioritizing traditional cultivars, following Protected Designation of Origin certification guidelines and implementing a stringent quality policy at a very early stage.
“An award obtained in a competition in general, and in an international competition such as the NYOOC in particular, provides a guarantee to consumers,” she told Olive Oil Times, adding that these awards give producers the benefit of being recognized by their peers, “professionals who are passionate about their profession.”
“An award is the result of the perfect alchemy between the olive, the producer and the miller,” she explained.
Paris said winning awards attracts new customers for producers. “[But] on an export level, this impact is more limited than on a national level,” she added. “It should not be forgotten that France’s production of olive oil is low (about 4,500 tons). The quantities exported remain quite low because our product is rare and high-end, with prices between €30 and €40 per liter.”
One of France’s big winners, Mas des Bories from Salon-de-Provence in southeast France, won two Gold Awards for its medium-intensity signature Provence PDO blend and its medium Bouteillan.
“For the second consecutive year, we received a Gold Award at the NYIOOC,” owner Claire de Fina Coutin told Olive Oil Times.
She said the company is savoring the pleasure and pride that comes with the international recognition of the quality of their oils. “We also have the feeling of a job well done,” she said.
However, de Fina Coutin acknowledged that the company faced many obstacles during the previous harvest.
“I think the biggest challenge we have faced is water management,” she said. “We suffered in Provence from a historic drought and limited access to water.”
“For our Mas des Bories brand, winning this award is a guarantee of quality that allows us to grow in the United States and other markets,” de Fina Contin added. “We are also contributing to the international impact of olive oil from Provence.”
She said care and thoroughness at each production stage are vital in producing award-winning olive oils.
“It starts with the attention paid to our trees throughout the year, especially the pruning,” de Fina Contin said. “Manual harvesting preserving the integrity of the fruits, picking carried out variety by variety at their optimum point of maturity and immediate processing after harvesting, are all undeniable factors that differentiate our oils.”
“The terroir and the geographical location of our olive grove also influence the development of the olives and their flavors,” she said. “Protected by the hills overlooking the estate, our olive trees benefit from a unique microclimate reflected in the richness of the aromatic bouquet of our oils.”
Another winner from France, Maison Brémond 1830 from Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, earned a Silver Award for its Green Fruity Heritage brand’s delicate Aglandau.
“It is a great pride for us to be rewarded by the NYIOOC,” the company’s marketing director, Laetitia Casanova, said. “It is a real international recognition of our committed and environmentally-friendly work as a producer of extra virgin olive oil in Provence.”
However, creating their award-winning oil was not easy. “The very high temperatures last summer made it difficult to harvest,” Casanova said. “There were very few olives with very little yield.”
Due to the challenges faced, in part, she said the award affirms Maison Brémond 1830’s quality and that of Provence — and more particularly Haute-Provence — and an expression of how serious they are about what they do.
Casanova told Olive Oil Times that their oil’s very high organoleptic quality is a distinguishing feature. She said their limited-edition oil is produced during a short journey between the grove, mill and packaging point, “which affirms our commitment to respect the terroir and the environment.”