Part of our continuing special coverage of the 2021 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.
Italian producers earned a record number of awards at the 2021 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition from a record number of entries.
Over the years, these inimitable qualities have kept growing and the Index of the World’s Best Olive Oils certifies it, with an astonishing number of awards for Italian extra virgin olive oils.
The high-quality extra virgin olive oils were produced during one of the most challenging seasons of the past few years, as bad weather coupled with the Covid-19 pandemic, hampered harvests up and down the country.See Also: The Best Olive Oils from Italy
“Italian olive oil production in 2020 reached a total value of €3.3 billion, figures that do not take into account self-production and self-consumption, which are fairly relevant factors in our country,” Francesco Battistoni, the Italian undersecretary of agriculture, food and forestry, told Olive Oil Times.
“We produced 273,000 tons of olive oil and consumed 480,000 tons. By value, Italy is the world’s second-largest exporter and leading importer,” Battistoni noted.
The southern regions of the country suffered the most from inclement weather, especially Puglia, which is responsible for roughly 40 to 60 percent of total Italian olive oil production. Local producers saw their crop yields cut by 50 percent.
Puglia also faced the growing damages of the Xylella fastidiosa outbreak, but mostly suffered from repeated extreme events just like other regions in the area, such as Calabria and Sicily. Experts warn that these types of seasons are likely to become increasingly normal and may be worsened by short and extreme heatwaves during the summer.
After such a challenging season, 211 Italian extra virgin olive oils were awarded at the NYIOOC, with a record 160 Gold Awards and 51 Silver Awards earned by large and small producers devoted to high quality.
“What distinguishes us is the constant quest for quality and the extraordinary variety of our products,” Battistoni said. “Italy represents a unique heritage and our companies succeed in giving birth to unique, unmatched products. Over the years, these inimitable qualities have kept growing and the Index of the World’s Best Olive Oils certifies it, with an astonishing number of awards for Italian extra virgin olive oils.”
“As the government in Italy, we are working on olive production chain development projects because there is still room for improvement, mostly on the technological innovation side,” he added. “We must work on the cultural heritage related to agriculture and Mediterranean diet and feel confident about the future even if the Covid-19 outbreak harshly hit the [olive oil] sector.”
The highest total number of awards, 20, went to producers in Tuscany, Puglia and Sicily. Tuscan producers collected the most Gold Awards, with 18.
Tuscany was followed by producers from Lazio, who succeeded in collecting 16 Gold Awards, a significant increase from the nine earned at the previous edition. Puglian producers earned the third-highest number of Gold Awards, with 15.
Italy’s northern regions also confirmed the growing quality of their products, with Veneto winning nine Gold Awards after failing to earn a single distinction in 2020. Producers from Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Lombardia and Liguria were also awarded in 2021 after failing to do so in 2020.
“We are seeing several new players in the sector investing in high quality and therefore participating in such a relevant competition as the NYIOOC,” said Daniele Santini, owner of the Tuscan-based Entimio brand, which won four Gold Awards.
“For Tuscany, 2020 has been a very good season, unlike 2019,” he told Olive Oil Times. “It is not surprising that in other regions things went differently in terms of quantity, when we look at the Italian harvest seasons, results historically differ so much from region to region.”
For the Tuscan entrepreneur, many Italian high-quality extra virgin olive oil producers have even more room for improvement especially in expanding organic production or evolving packaging.
“If we look at some producers from Spain or France, we can see a lot of attention given to the packaging,” Santini said. “It is something many Italian producers of fine extra virgin olive oils could look into.”
Entimio has been participating in the NYIOOC since its first edition.
“The NYIOOC is a great tool for producers like us,” Santini said. “It is the best confirmation of the quality of our work and it is a sure value for our brand.”