Italian Producers Reveal Their Winning Strategies at World Competition

Italian farmers and millers combined to earn 147 awards at the 2024 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition, more than any other country.

Italian farmers and millers once again earned more awards than their peers in the 2024 World Olive Oil Competition. (Photo: Agraria Riva del Garda)
By Paolo DeAndreis
May. 13, 2024 15:16 UTC
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Italian farmers and millers once again earned more awards than their peers in the 2024 World Olive Oil Competition. (Photo: Agraria Riva del Garda)

Italian extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duc­ers led the way at the 2024 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition, secur­ing 97 Gold and 50 Silver Awards, more than any other par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­try. Judges awarded 68 per­cent of the 217 Italian labels sub­mit­ted to the com­pe­ti­tion.

Although these results under­score the qual­ity of Italian extra vir­gin olive oils, the mod­est suc­cess rate did not come as a sur­prise, as the win­ning pro­duc­ers coped with a very chal­leng­ing har­vest.

The 2023/24 crop year included extreme weather events from north to south, includ­ing pro­longed droughts, scorch­ing sum­mer heat­waves, severe winds and hail­storms.

While south­ern Italy reported strong per­for­mances, boost­ing over­all pro­duc­tion vol­umes, the north­ern and cen­tral regions expe­ri­enced a dis­as­trous cam­paign.

See Also:The best extra vir­gin olive oils from Italy

This has been one of the tough­est sea­sons I can recall, plagued by adverse weather and per­sis­tent olive fruit fly attacks,” said Alessandra Nicolai, owner of Gold Award-win­ning Millenovecento 80 in cen­tral Italy.

Nestled in the heart of Latium’s Etruscan region, north of Rome, Millenovecento 80 is steeped in a cen­tury-old tra­di­tion of olive grow­ing.

Fortunately, sev­eral of our olive orchards in the Bolsena Lake area remained pro­duc­tive, allow­ing us to meet pro­duc­tion goals,” Nicolai said. However, in our region, I’ve wit­nessed many orchards com­pletely bar­ren of olives.”

the-best-olive-oils-competitions-production-europe-italian-producers-reveal-their-winning-strategies-at-world-competition-olive-oil-times

Alessandra Nicolai celebrates a successful season after overcoming pests and extreme weather events. (Photo: Millenovecento 80)

She empha­sized that enhanc­ing the pro­duc­tion of high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil in Italy hinges on imple­ment­ing sup­port­ive poli­cies and increas­ing con­sumer aware­ness.

To engage con­sumers, we host guided olive oil tast­ings, show­cas­ing our unique approach to the extra­or­di­nary world of olive oil,” Nicolai said.

We’re thrilled with the Gold Award,” she added. It’s the cul­mi­na­tion of years of hard work, sac­ri­fice, and con­tin­ual improve­ment. We strive to enhance our cam­paign each year and achieve even bet­ter results.”

Despite a few set­backs from late-sea­son hail­storms, most olive oil pro­duc­ers in Puglia, located in Italy’s south­ern heel, reported a suc­cess­ful sea­son.

The NYIOOC Gold Award did not sur­prise the Vieste broth­ers, Pasquale, Vincenzo, Giacomo and Raffaele, who man­age the Oleificio Fratelli Vieste in Puglia.

the-best-olive-oils-competitions-production-europe-italian-producers-reveal-their-winning-strategies-at-world-competition-olive-oil-times

Pasquale, Vincenzo, Giacomo and Raffaele Vieste (Photo: Oleificio Fratelli Vieste)

We were look­ing for this result. We have been so atten­tive in man­ag­ing the grove and the whole pro­duc­tion phase,” Raffaele Vieste said. Winning in New York means so much to us, as it tells us we are on the right path.”

Growing healthy fruit has become more chal­leng­ing than in the past, mostly because of the unpre­dictabil­ity of the cli­mate,” he added. That also means care­fully mon­i­tor­ing every phase after veg­e­ta­tion, adopt­ing more sus­tain­able and nat­ural prod­ucts and com­bat­ing the olive fruit fly with traps.”

The award-win­ning Cristalda e Pizzomunno extra vir­gin olive oil gets its name from a local leg­end about two lovers thwarted by envi­ous sea sirens.

After resist­ing the sirens’ temp­ta­tions, the lovers were trans­formed – the man into a rock and the woman into a siren. Legend holds that they reunite every 100 years through the sea god’s grace.

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We aim to share this cher­ished leg­end, passed down through gen­er­a­tions,” Vieste said. Customers are drawn to the story and the unique bot­tle design by local artist Raffaele Montemorra.”

Our flag­ship prod­uct excels both sen­so­ri­ally and as a nar­ra­tive medium. We could­n’t be prouder of its suc­cess,” he added.

Another Apulian win­ner, Archidamo III, also won a Gold Award in New York. Archidamo III earned its fourth NYIOOC award in a row.

the-best-olive-oils-competitions-production-europe-italian-producers-reveal-their-winning-strategies-at-world-competition-olive-oil-times

While Archidamo III is near the buffer zone for Xylella fastidiosa, this has not stopped the producer from expanding its groves. (Photo: Archidamo III)

Those wins tell us, our cus­tomers and the whole world, that Apulian high-qual­ity olive oil remains world-class even in these chal­leng­ing times,” said owner Ernesto Maria Buondonno. We wanted to par­tic­i­pate in the com­pe­ti­tion because we are located in a region where olive oil pro­duc­tion risks being aban­doned.”

It was a way to gather new energy at a moment when Apulian olives are hit by Xylella fas­tidiosa,” he added. It was a way to show that regen­er­a­tive agri­cul­ture, good prac­tices on the field and inno­va­tion can deliver results and enhance resilience.”

Despite the chal­lenges posed by the deadly olive tree bac­terium, the area was blessed with a good har­vest.

We had not one but sev­eral bad sea­sons,” Buondonno said. This time, we had some rain in the spring at the per­fect moment. Maybe the yields could be larger, but the qual­ity is very high.”

This extra­or­di­nary region still has so much to say, and that is why we are invest­ing in 5,000 new olive trees of dif­fer­ent cul­ti­vars, stem­ming from the Apulian unique her­itage of bio­di­ver­sity,” he added.

The chal­leng­ing sea­son con­fronting many Tuscan pro­duc­ers in cen­tral Italy did not ham­per their resilience. Frantoio Pruneti has been awarded at the NYIOOC every year since 2016 and earned another Gold Award in 2024.

the-best-olive-oils-competitions-production-europe-italian-producers-reveal-their-winning-strategies-at-world-competition-olive-oil-times

Despite the many challenges faced by Tuscan producers this year, Frantoio Pruneti is bullish about the future with an effort to plant 12,000 new trees underway. (Photo: Frantoio Pruneti)

In the last few years, many things have changed,” said co-owner Gionno Pruneti. We invested heav­ily in our new olive oil mill and the lat­est tech­nolo­gies. We also invested in the groves, recov­er­ing aban­doned orchards and plant­ing 12,000 new trees, includ­ing tra­di­tional olive vari­eties and oth­ers almost unheard of.”

The months pre­ced­ing the har­vest were uncer­tain due to the weather,” he added. After the first tests, though, we real­ized that we found the tra­di­tional sig­nif­i­cant notes in our olive oils, and an excel­lency once again con­firmed.”

Pruneti said the company’s inno­v­a­tive approach in the groves and the mill has allowed them to over­come the chal­lenges posed by pests while endow­ing the result­ing extra vir­gin olive oil with dis­tinc­tive herbal notes.

Despite a chal­leng­ing sea­son for many in north­ern Italy, Agraria Riva del Garda, a renowned coop­er­a­tive along Italy’s largest lake, once again cel­e­brated win­ning a Gold Award for its Uliva brand.

The award fills us with sat­is­fac­tion and, above all, con­firms that the path we have taken to main­tain, and pos­si­bly improve, the qual­ity stan­dards of our prod­ucts is the right one,” said Furio Battelini, who leads Agraria’s tech­ni­cal unit.

the-best-olive-oils-competitions-production-europe-italian-producers-reveal-their-winning-strategies-at-world-competition-olive-oil-times

The Agraria Riva del Garda cooperative is locatedat the northern-edge of traditional olive growing terroir. (Photo: Agraria Riva del Garda)

Located near the 46th par­al­lel, his­tor­i­cally the north­ern­most bound­ary for olive cul­ti­va­tion, Uliva’s suc­cess stems from the unique Casaliva cul­ti­var and the ded­i­cated efforts of around 1,200 local pro­duc­ers.

We have expe­ri­enced a suc­ces­sion of absolutely pos­i­tive years and oth­ers that were extremely dif­fi­cult in recent years,” Battelini said.

Agraria’s chief olive expert believes adapt­ing to the weather and cli­mate change neces­si­tates con­tin­ual inno­va­tion in farm­ing prac­tices and olive pro­cess­ing tech­niques.

“‘Our com­mit­ment to sus­tain­able devel­op­ment never ceases,” he said. Each sea­son brings chal­lenges, but our con­sis­tent results affirm that we’re inter­pret­ing these vari­a­tions cor­rectly.”

Indeed, the con­sis­tent qual­ity, cer­ti­fied by the NYIOOC, sig­ni­fies that the region, the olive vari­eties, and the capa­bil­ity in cul­ti­va­tion in the olive grove and pro­cess­ing in the mill are man­aged in the best way,” Battelini con­cluded.


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