Record Wins for American Producers at World Olive Oil Competition

American producers took home a record-high 56 Gold and 18 Silver Awards at the world's premier olive oil quality competition. Only Spanish and Italian producers received more.

Pamela Marvel, of Grumpy Goats Farm
May. 18, 2020
By Daniel Dawson
Pamela Marvel, of Grumpy Goats Farm

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Part of our con­tin­u­ing cov­er­age of the 2020 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

By a num­ber of dif­fer­ent met­rics, American pro­duc­ers had a record-set­ting year at the 2020 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

American pro­duc­ers received 74 awards, one shy of the record set at the 2018 edi­tion of the com­pe­ti­tion, from a total of 120 entries. This year’s 62-per­cent suc­cess rate was the high­est for American pro­duc­ers at the con­test.

It feels won­der­ful to receive an award after all the work that went into mak­ing our cer­ti­fied organic extra vir­gin olive oil.- Fabien Tremoulet, co-owner of Pitchouline

Of the 74 awards, pro­duc­ers from California, Texas, Georgia and Oregon took home a record-set­ting 56 Gold Awards and 18 Silver Awards. The United States received the third-high­est amount of awards at the con­test, fin­ish­ing just behind Spain and Italy.

See Also: Special Coverage: 2020 NYIOOC

Overall, 35 dif­fer­ent American pro­duc­ers were awarded at the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition. Among the biggest win­ners was Pasolivo, which picked up four Gold Awards.

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Pasolivo

I was really excited and proud to receive all Gold Awards this year. It is such a won­der­ful feel­ing know­ing that everyone’s hard work has paid off,” Marisa Bloch, the gen­eral man­ager of the Paso Robles-based com­pany, told Olive Oil Times. It is amaz­ing to have your oils so well received by some of the top influ­encers in the olive oil indus­try at the most pres­ti­gious com­pe­ti­tion in the world.”

Pasolivo has entered the com­pe­ti­tion for the pre­vi­ous five years and won a total of 17 awards. Bloch said that focussing on qual­ity through­out each step of the process has been key to the brand’s endur­ing suc­cess.

Harvesting olives from Pasolivo’s farm in Paso Robles, California.

We also mill each vari­ety sep­a­rately and taste them all indi­vid­u­ally before com­ing up with our blends,” she said. Many pro­duc­ers do a field blend where they take all of their Tuscan olives and mill them together cre­at­ing their Tuscan oil, but we like the free­dom and the oppor­tu­nity to hand-select which oils each year pair best together.”

While the 2019 har­vest went pretty smoothly over­all for the cen­tral Californian pro­ducer, Bloch said that adverse weather con­di­tions had a sig­nif­i­cant impact on the har­vest.

The only chal­lenge we faced this last year was that due to the heavy rains at the begin­ning of the year, our har­vest was about a month later than nor­mal,” she said. This caused us to be har­vest­ing dur­ing December and we did encounter some rains. The only chal­lenge this poses is that you need to start and stop your har­vest because you can’t pick while it is rain­ing.”

Overall, the list of win­ners recorded on the Official Index of the World’s Best Olive Oils is full of famil­iar names and repeat win­ners. However, the 2020 edi­tion of the com­pe­ti­tion also saw a num­ber of new­com­ers being awarded for the first time.

Among these newly anointed was Pitchouline, which won a Gold Award for their organic medium blend.

This is our first time enter­ing the NYIOOC and our sec­ond year pro­duc­ing extra vir­gin olive oil,” co-owner Fabien Tremoulet told Olive Oil Times. It feels won­der­ful to receive an award after all the work that went into mak­ing our cer­ti­fied organic extra vir­gin olive oil and, more so, the long hard jour­ney to nur­ture our farm and bring fer­til­ity back to our soil.”

Jeanene and Fabien Tremoulet

Pitchouline’s olive groves are located in the Deluz Valley, roughly halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego. Tremoulet said that the com­bi­na­tion of the unique micro­cli­mate and care­ful stew­ard­ship of the soil is mainly respon­si­ble for this year’s Gold.

The Deluz Valley offers a very unique cli­mate with a Mediterranean-like micro­cli­mate pro­vid­ing our olive trees a per­fect blend of day­time heat and low night­time tem­per­a­tures,” he said. Right from the infancy of our vision, we believed that the qual­ity of our olive oil starts in the soil and made a com­mit­ment to never use chem­i­cals. We pre­pare our own bio­dy­namic com­post and use cover crops.”

While the weather was not too much of an issue for Pitchouline this year, Tremoulet said that labor costs and the over­all mar­gins at which he and his wife are able to sell their prod­uct presents the biggest chal­lenge.

Labor avail­abil­ity and cost was our main chal­lenge last year,” he said. It is unsta­ble and the costli­est fac­tor in the pro­duc­tion of our extra vir­gin olive oil.”

Along with labor avail­abil­ity, some pro­duc­ers also had trou­ble find­ing avail­able mills to trans­form their olives, espe­cially pro­duc­ers of cer­ti­fied organic extra vir­gin olive oil.

The milling was an issue as the mill we nor­mally used was no longer oper­at­ing and we can only use a cer­ti­fied organic mill,” Rich Matthews, the co-owner of Moonshadow Grove, told Olive Oil Times. The har­vest was plen­ti­ful and the pick­ers did a fab­u­lous job. As we did the trans­port, we ended up doing three trips to the mill per day, which made a 13 hour day for [both myself and my wife, Diane], but it was worth it to get the milling done as soon as pos­si­ble to ensure the best oils.”

Moonshadow Grove has entered the NYIOOC four times, win­ning seven Gold and two Silver Awards.

This year, Moonshadow Grove won a Gold and Silver Award for a medium Nocerella and del­i­cate Ascolano, respec­tively.

Matthews said a com­bi­na­tion of organic farm­ing and har­vest­ing from old-growth trees helps sep­a­rate Moonshade Grove’s extra vir­gin olive oils from the com­pe­ti­tion.

As we had moved to the cen­tral coast of California, Paso Robles, we con­tin­ued to use old-growth olives from north­ern California,” Matthews, who started pro­duc­ing extra vir­gin olive oil back in 2010 in Oroville, a town about 3.5 hours north of San Francisco, said. We pride our­selves in pro­duc­ing cer­ti­fied (CCOF) organic oils. This requires cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of the olives, the mill and the bot­tling.”

While find­ing a cer­ti­fied organic mill caused headaches for the Matthews, another California pro­ducer has come up with a workaround and brings his state-of-the-art mill to the olives.

We devel­oped what we believe is the most excit­ing food project of all time, wherein we have designed, financed and built a mobile mill fully equipped with state-of-the-art olive pro­cess­ing equip­ment from Tuscany,” Samir Bayraktar, the founder and CEO of Olive Truck told Olive Oil Times.

“[We can] drive the vehi­cle directly into the California olive groves, har­vest and press’ up to 500 kilo­grams (1,100 lbs) of olives per hour, and ulti­mately, within sec­onds, deliver the fresh­est, finest extra vir­gin olive oil with the high­est polyphe­nol antiox­i­dant count,” he added.

Bayraktar processes his oils in the mid­dle of the olive grove using state-of-the-art equip­ment in his spe­cially designed truck.

This year is the first time for Olive Truck at the NYIOOC, which took home three Gold Awards for a robust Hojiblanca, robust Picual and a medium blend. However, it is the third time for Bayraktar, who won two Gold Awards with his pre­vi­ous com­pany, Nar Gourmet.

Bayraktar said his three awards at the NYIOOC serve as moti­va­tion for him to con­tinue inno­vat­ing and pro­duc­ing the best olive oil that he can.

While 2019 was over­all a good year, he added that cli­mate change pre­sented the largest chal­lenge for him mov­ing for­wards.

The biggest chal­lenge now and, unfor­tu­nately in the future, is cli­mate change and its side effects. The sea­son is very short if you focus on the ultra-qual­ity olive oil pro­duc­tion, since you mostly need to deal with early har­vested olives,” Bayraktar said. The other big chal­lenge is the lack of expe­ri­ence regard­ing some farm­ing prac­tices in the region, espe­cially over-irri­gat­ing. This is a true night­mare if you focus on achiev­ing and main­tain­ing a high polyphe­nol con­tent in the olive oil.”

While the vast major­ity of American win­ners at the NYIOOC were California pro­duc­ers, two Golds and three Silvers were awarded to olive oil mak­ers from out­side of the Golden State.

Among these pro­duc­ers was Woodpecker Trail Olive Farm. The south­ern Georgian pro­ducer earned a Silver Award for its medium Arbequina.

This is our first entry, from our first press, which makes this Silver award even more impres­sive,” CEO Curtis Poling, who runs the farm with his wife, Tracy, said. We are very excited that our extra vir­gin olive oil lived up to our expec­ta­tions.”

In South Georgia, high lev­els of humid­ity is one of the major chal­lenges faced by olive oil pro­duc­ers.

Poling said that pro­duc­ing olive oil in Georgia brings with it a unique set of prob­lems, ones not faced as often by pro­duc­ers in California or Texas.

Georgia is still work­ing on get­ting a larger part of the extra vir­gin olive oil mar­ket,” he said. We have dif­fer­ent soil and weather con­di­tions. A par­tic­u­lar chal­lenge in South Georgia is deal­ing with the heat and humid­ity.”

However, Poling and his wife believe this year’s award will help put Georgia on the world olive oil map and bring them some inter­na­tional atten­tion.

I believe that this pres­ti­gious award will bring much desired atten­tion to our brand Woodpecker Trail Olive Farm and the his­toric Woodpecker Trail Route (Highway 121), which is where we are located,” Poling said.


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