In Portugal, a Tough Season Ends with Stronger Determination

One industry veteran characterizes the 2022 harvest in Portugal as a perfect storm. Still, a common commitment to quality remains unshaken.

(Photo: Casa de Santa Amaro)
By Lisa Anderson
May. 10, 2023 12:35 UTC
(Photo: Casa de Santa Amaro)

Thirty-five high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oils from Portugal have been awarded over the past month at the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

The 19 Gold Awards and 16 Silver Awards are the prod­uct of Portugal’s lat­est har­vest, which was ini­tially fore­casted to yield less than 100,000 tons of olive oil.

We remain com­mit­ted to pro­tect­ing what is ours. The tra­di­tional olive groves, the land­scape, the peo­ple and the her­itage that is under threat. We did less this year, but we did it well.- Ana Carrilho, pro­duc­tion direc­tor, Esporão

However, the yield had already sur­passed 126,000 tons by the end of December, despite the long-run­ning drought and weather extremes trou­bling local pro­duc­ers.

We think the fact that Portuguese extra vir­gin olive oil wins more and more awards at an inter­na­tional level is very impor­tant for the image of the national extra vir­gin olive oil,” Mariana Matos, the sec­re­tary-gen­eral of Casa do Azeite, the Portuguese olive oil asso­ci­a­tion, told Olive Oil Times.

See Also:Best EVOO From Portugal

It demon­strates with­out any doubt the qual­i­ta­tive effort that the whole sec­tor has made over the last few years, along with the enor­mous devel­op­ment of Portuguese pro­duc­tion,” she added. I think that Portuguese olive oil brands are to be con­grat­u­lated.”

Matos said win­ning acco­lades comes with the respon­si­bil­ity to improve the qual­ity of their oils, adding that these awards strengthen the image of Portuguese brands, both nation­ally and inter­na­tion­ally.

The growth of national exports over the last decade has been remark­able,” she said, around 150 per­cent in vol­ume and almost 200 per­cent in value.”

While pro­duc­tion and exports have steadily grown, olive oil con­sump­tion in Portugal has remained rel­a­tively sta­ble at about seven kilo­grams per capita annu­ally.

Among the win­ning pro­duc­ers cel­e­brat­ing their NYIOOC suc­cess is Esporão, from Alentejo, Portugal’s largest olive oil-pro­duc­ing region. The pro­ducer won two Gold Awards for its organic medium Arbequina blend and its medium Cobrancosa blend.


(Photo: Esperão)

Our mis­sion is to make the finest prod­ucts from what nature pro­vides,” said Ana Carrilho, the direc­tor of Esporão’s olive oil pro­duc­tion, brand and mar­kets depart­ment. These awards are proof of our com­mit­ment to qual­ity.”

We are very proud that our con­sumers can expe­ri­ence and enjoy our finest olive oils that come from olive trees from Alentejo, Portugal, which have been planted over the years and are still here teach­ing and inspir­ing us every day,” she added.

However, Carrilho said pro­duc­ing Esporão’s extra vir­gin olive oil was by no means a trou­ble-free expe­ri­ence.

We faced a har­vest full of chal­lenges,” she told Olive Oil Times. Late frosts, high tem­per­a­tures dur­ing flow­er­ing, a rainy spring and a hot sum­mer that coin­cided with the off-year [in the nat­ural alter­nate bear­ing cycle of the olive tree].”

It was really the per­fect storm,” Carrilho added. These chal­lenges had more impact on dry­land olive groves and Portuguese vari­eties, result­ing in a drop of about 70 per­cent in olive pro­duc­tion.”

Yet, we faced these chal­lenges as oppor­tu­ni­ties to rein­vent our­selves and learn,” she con­tin­ued. We remain com­mit­ted to pro­tect­ing what is ours.’ The tra­di­tional olive groves, the land­scape, the peo­ple and the her­itage that is under threat. We did less this year, but we did it well.”

Carrilho said pay­ing close atten­tion to details helped Esporão win its two Gold Awards at the NYIOOC. The char­ac­ter­is­tics of both olive oils make them unique,” she added.


(Photo: Esperão)

Another pro­ducer from the south of Portugal, Viveiros Monterosa from the Eastern Algarve region, has been cel­e­brat­ing its Gold Award for its medium Macanilha de Tavira.

Winning again is just won­der­ful,” sales rep­re­sen­ta­tive António Duarte told Olive Oil Times. It is recog­ni­tion for the work we have been devel­op­ing year after year, fine-tun­ing all the steps from the olive grove to the fin­ished prod­uct. It is also an excel­lent mar­ket­ing tool for the brand and all our com­mer­cial part­ners.”


Currently, we are the only pro­duc­ers in the Algarve that can pro­duce this level of qual­ity, and that is also very impor­tant for the region, which is mainly known for tourism, sun, beach and golf,” he added.

Duarte took advan­tage of Algarve’s nat­ural beauty by offer­ing guided walk­ing tours so vis­i­tors can dis­cover what high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil is and become attached to the brand and its exclu­siv­ity,” he said. I am sure that in the near future, other pro­duc­ers will appear.”

We have been work­ing on this spe­cific olive vari­ety native to our region, Macanilha de Tavira, for 22 years, and it has adapted per­fectly to the cli­mate of the Algarve and is now very sta­ble,” Duarte added. So we can have sim­i­lar oil pro­files year after year. That helps a lot when decid­ing when to har­vest and how to mill this spe­cific vari­ety.”

The team at Viveiros Monterosa had to get off to an early start to pro­duce their extra vir­gin olive oil. Duarte said cli­mate change had affected Viveiros Monterosa’s entire har­vest­ing process.

It seems that every year we start ear­lier, and that means we need to be ready a lot ear­lier than in pre­vi­ous years,” he said.

Another pro­ducer from Trás-os-Montes, Casa Agrícola Roboredo Madeira (CARM), won a Gold Award for its organic medium blend.


(Photo: CARM)

For CARM, this award means that we are con­tin­u­ing on the right track and that the hard work we’ve put into a dif­fi­cult har­vest, such as this last one, was rewarded,” Miguel Azevedo Remédio, the company’s com­mer­cial direc­tor, told Olive Oil Times.

It is recog­ni­tion of the hard work we’ve put into our olive oils, and its shows con­sumers they can trust CARM as a brand that pro­duces top qual­ity olive oils,” he added.

Remédio said win­ning awards in inter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion brings global recog­ni­tion to Portugal. For the Tras-os-Montes and Douro region, it is recog­ni­tion of the qual­ity we can get from old olive groves and extremely dry and poor soils,” he said.

CARM’s award-win­ning oil was pro­duced from a dif­fi­cult har­vest. The main chal­lenge was related to the extremely dry year we had and the cor­re­spond­ing decrease in pro­duc­tion,” he said. In some of the old olive groves, we had an 85 to 90 per­cent decrease.”

However, Remédio added that there are some fac­tors that make CARM’s oils stand out. We believe the main fac­tor is the qual­ity of the fruit we get from old olive groves from the Douro Superior region. Of course, together with care­ful and hard work,” he said.

Further south, Monte do Camelo earned a Gold Award for its Tratturo de Fronteira brand’s robust Cobrançosa.


(Photo: Monte do Carmelo)

Achieving a Gold Award right after a Silver in our first year at the com­pe­ti­tion is a great accom­plish­ment, con­sid­er­ing the mag­ni­tude of NYIOOC,” co-owner Ana Cardoso told Olive Oil Times. We hope to live up to this in the future; we will work towards that for sure.”

From our brand’s point of view, it is an enor­mous recog­ni­tion for the work done,” she added. It is an award that puts us along­side other great Portuguese pro­duc­ers, and it will absolutely increase the image of the qual­ity that is made in Portugal.”

Cardoso said Monte do Camelo tried to improve its extrac­tion and stor­age process in the past year. A good and healthy olive is not enough to make an excel­lent extra vir­gin olive oil,” she added.

The most dif­fi­cult part was har­vest­ing and milling with such high tem­per­a­tures and with dry fruit, which made extrac­tion dif­fi­cult,” she said. Also, being an olive grower and a miller at the same time requires flex­i­bil­ity and orga­ni­za­tional capa­bil­i­ties.”


(Photo: Monte do Carmelo)

Cooperativa de Olivicultores de Valpaços, another Trás-os-Montes-based pro­ducer, won three awards for its Rosmaninho brand.

The com­pany earned a Gold Award for its medium Cobrancosa and two Silver Awards for its medium Cobrancosa and medium blend.

The feel­ing is excel­lent,” said José Ventura, the company’s gen­eral direc­tor and offi­cial taster, as it rewards the effort, work and ded­i­ca­tion of an entire team: the asso­ciates who pro­duce the olives, the admin­is­tra­tion that man­ages the coop­er­a­tive and the employ­ees who carry out the tasks accord­ing to the estab­lished norms.”

The awards con­tribute to greater vis­i­bil­ity, noto­ri­ety and enhance­ment of our brand Rosmaninho,” he told Olive Oil Times. They are an incen­tive to do even bet­ter, mak­ing this region of Trás-os-Montes and Portugal known to the whole world.”

The ter­roir of Trás-os-Montes, the tra­di­tional rain-fed olive groves with indige­nous vari­eties, the right time for har­vest­ing and the con­trolled extrac­tion of the oil,” he added, give rise to unique fla­vors and aro­mas, with unique organolep­tic char­ac­ter­is­tics, such as the high con­tent of polyphe­nols.”

However, it was not easy to pro­duce Rosmaninho’s award-win­ning oils. The chal­lenges were essen­tially the wide­spread scarcity of olives at around 50 per­cent less and drought as a fac­tor of some con­cern,” Ventura said.


António Pavão

Nearby pro­ducer Trás-os-Montes Prime also earned three awards at the 2023 NYIOOC. The com­pany won Gold Awards for its medium Cobrancosa blend and two medium blends, all bot­tled under the Casa de Santo Amaro brand.

We under­stand that these three Gold Awards are the result of a huge effort by the whole Casa de Santo Amaro team that works daily to make this recog­ni­tion pos­si­ble,” co-owner António Pavão told Olive Oil Times.

The company’s har­vest was 50 per­cent lower than the pre­vi­ous one. But with all the team’s effort, ded­i­ca­tion and pro­fes­sion­al­ism,” he added, we were able to har­vest fresh and healthy olives and imme­di­ately pro­duce these extra vir­gin olive oils of enor­mous qual­ity in our mill.”

Pavão said that care­fully blend­ing native olive vari­eties helped their award-win­ning brands stand out.

Perhaps our native olive tree vari­eties, the dis­tinc­tive ter­roir of the Trás-os-Montes region, the ded­i­ca­tion of our entire team and Francisco Ataíde Pavão – my brother – the extra vir­gin olive oil spe­cial­ist who makes all our final blends,” he said.

Winning these awards is very impor­tant for our Casa de Santo Amaro brand, Trás-os-Montes and Portugal,” Pavão added. Fortunately, since 2016, we have seen our extra vir­gin olive oils awarded at the NYIOOC every year, demon­strat­ing our qual­ity har­vest after har­vest.”

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