TerraOlivo, the international extra virgin olive oil competition held in Jerusalem, closed Friday setting new heights for its diversity of judges and the number and diversity of entries. One of the organizers, Raúl César Castellani, was pleased.

“We have attracted the most diverse number of samples and the most diverse panel of jurors in the world,” Castellani said. “This past week, professional tasters from ten countries joined us to assess 408 samples from 17 countries – possibly 18 countries, if we can get a shipment released from customs Monday.”

139 samples were Israeli, while 269 oils — or 66 percent of the total samples received and judged — were from out of the country. At the time of this writing, 15 samples remained in Israeli customs, including three from Australia.

“A potential to assess these samples on Monday morning, exists,” according to co-organizer Haim Gan. “Producers work very hard to make good oil and go through considerable effort to prepare samples for shipment. It would be a shame to not give them every opportunity to participate. If we can have the logistics work and keep to our scheduled announcement of the awards, then we will make every effort to do so.”

Whether 408 entries or 423, and whether 17 countries or 18, this year’s numbers (with judges from ten countries) eclipsed the event’s previous editions. TerraOlivo opened in 2010 with 189 entries from 14 countries, and judges flew in from four nations to add to the Israeli jury that year.

Even with such growth, co-organizer Moshe Spak, TerraOlivo’s director of international affairs, was not totally satisfied. “We had hoped to have entrants from some Arab nations at this year’s competition. We welcome Tunisia, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and all other olive oil producing nations. If we could have all the countries of the world who produce olive oil participate in TerraOlivo, only then will I truly be happy with our results.”

TerraOlivo events continue on Sunday with a four-day olive oil and nutrition conference outside of Tel Aviv organized by Professor Zohar Kerem of Hebrew University featuring speakers from around the Mediterranean. Awards for the competition will be announced at a ceremony at the conference on Monday afternoon.

TerraOlivo’s Raúl César Castellani and Haim Gan

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