38 Complete Sommelier Certification Program in New York

Professionals and enthusiasts from around the world completed an intensive week-long course on olive oil quality and sensory assessment.
By Daniel Dawson
Jun. 5, 2023 14:02 UTC

Thirty-eight pro­fes­sion­als and enthu­si­asts became olive oil som­me­liers after com­plet­ing a rig­or­ous week-long course in the heart of Manhattan.

Participants from every value chain seg­ment – pro­duc­ers to dis­trib­u­tors and retail­ers – trav­eled to New York from as far as South Korea and Spain for the Olive Oil Times Education Lab’s five-day pro­gram on olive oil qual­ity.

My objec­tive in New York was to attain a broader, more com­pre­hen­sive global per­spec­tive. I am happy to announce that I have suc­cess­fully accom­plished this goal.- Oleg Yakovlev, 

Over the week, par­tic­i­pants learned about olive oil qual­ity stan­dards and pro­duc­tion, sen­sory analy­sis, olive oil defects and pos­i­tive attrib­utes, chem­istry, olive cul­ti­vars, health ben­e­fits, culi­nary appli­ca­tions and sus­tain­abil­ity, among many other top­ics.

The award-win­ning pro­ducer Laurence Deprez was among the atten­dees, who co-owns Cultura Viva with her hus­band, Stefano Zenezini. Their Le Clarisse brand earned a Gold Award at the 2023 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.


Stefano Zenezini

See Also:31 Complete Sommelier Certification Course in London

Our goal is to pro­duce an excep­tional extra vir­gin olive oil,” Deprez told Olive Oil Times. So, we are con­stantly learn­ing about olive oil, from agri­cul­tural prac­tices to milling and sell­ing.”

Learning how to taste extra vir­gin olive oil and be able to make oth­ers appre­ci­ate it even more, seemed the right addi­tional area of exper­tise to com­ple­ment our knowl­edge,” she added.

Deprez praised the orga­ni­za­tion of the course and the knowl­edge of the expert panel of instruc­tors. I par­tic­u­larly loved the fact that we tasted olive oils from all over the world,” she added.


Laurence Deprez

Deprez said she would use what she learned to become a bet­ter ambas­sador” for her Le Clarisse brand and extra vir­gin olive oil.

She was far from the only one who said the qual­ity of the instruc­tion stood out to her. The som­me­lier course brought together a field of renowned experts, includ­ing NYIOOC panel lead­ers Carola Dummer and Antonio Lauro; mas­ter miller Pablo Voitzuk; award-win­ning pro­duc­ers Dinao and Diamantis Pierrakos, Timon and Christina Brataševec, Samir Bayraktar and Tim Balshi; chef and culi­nary edu­ca­tor Anthony Dewald; physi­cian and author Simon Poole; and Olive Oil Times founder and NYIOOC pres­i­dent Curtis Cord.

When it comes to assess­ing the qual­ity of this course, a per­fect score of 100 is the pin­na­cle,” Oleg Yakovlev, who trav­eled from Barcelona to attend the pro­gram, told Olive Oil Times. Personally, I would bestow upon it a rat­ing of 97, leav­ing room for poten­tial the­o­ret­i­cal advance­ments and future growth,” he added.

Yakovlev cited the pre­sen­ta­tions from award-win­ning miller Pablo Voitzuk as one part of the course that stood out for him.


Oleg Yakovlev (left)

His pro­found exper­tise, cou­pled with his hum­ble demeanor and artic­u­late speak­ing style, made a last­ing impact on me,” Yakovlev said. Additionally, the incor­po­ra­tion of real-life cases that show­cased diverse olive oil enter­prises fur­ther enriched the over­all learn­ing expe­ri­ence.”

Yakovlev added that he plans to use what he has learned from the course in a new endeavor to become a com­pre­hen­sive source of infor­ma­tion about olive oil.” He also plans to get involved in oleo­tourism in Barcelona.

While this course is not my ini­tial foray into study­ing the sub­ject, hav­ing pre­vi­ously attended ses­sions in Spain, my objec­tive in New York was to attain a broader, more com­pre­hen­sive global per­spec­tive,” he said. I am happy to announce that I have suc­cess­fully accom­plished this goal.”


Olive oil pro­duc­tion is a noble pur­suit to pro­duce some­thing that ben­e­fits human well-being while respect­ing and pre­serv­ing the envi­ron­ment.

To that end, small-scale pro­ducer Lesley Imhof trav­eled to the course to learn how she could apply regen­er­a­tive agri­cul­tural best prac­tices on her five-hectare grove of for­merly-aban­doned cen­te­nary trees in Puglia, Italy, from which she pro­duces olive oil.


Lesley Imhof

I enrolled in the som­me­lier cer­tifi­cate course because we are com­mit­ted to pro­duc­ing the best qual­ity organic extra vir­gin olive oil and because we believe in edu­cat­ing and pro­mot­ing oth­ers on the virtues of olive oil con­sump­tion,” Imhof told Olive Oil Times. I hope to use this knowl­edge to improve and opti­mize our olive oil pro­duc­tion and to share with oth­ers our pas­sion for what we do.”

While she said the entire course was excel­lent, Imhof par­tic­u­larly enjoyed ses­sions led by Dino and Diamantis Pierrakos, who pro­duce the acclaimed Laconiko brand, and Samir Bayraktar, who tra­verses California’s Central Valley in a mobile mill to pro­duce the award-win­ning Olive Truck extra vir­gin olive oils. Imhof said she would apply infor­ma­tion gleaned at the course to con­tinue her goal of pro­duc­ing high-qual­ity organic extra vir­gin olive oil.


Diamantis Pierrakos

We saw and still see the vast poten­tial of the region and are com­mit­ted to restor­ing a bio­di­verse ecosys­tem,” Imhof said. It was our hope to give new life to this land.”

In the years since we pur­chased the land, we have planted hun­dreds of new trees, includ­ing olive trees, pome­gran­ate trees, fruit and almond trees, as well as vines which are endemic to the region, as part of our efforts to restore this vital ecosys­tem,” she added.

Professionals across the olive oil value chain said the course rein­forced their pas­sion for extra vir­gin olive oil and would help their careers.

I decided to enroll in the course to give me a fuller under­stand­ing of the world of extra vir­gin olive oil,” Jay Nee told Olive Oil Times. I am a sales direc­tor for Millpress, and about 70 per­cent of our busi­ness deals with green extra vir­gin olive oil.”

Millpress was among the win­ners at the 2023 NYIOOC, earn­ing Gold Awards for its care­fully-selected imported brands and oils pro­duced by the founder Tim Balshi at his fam­ily mill, Almazaras Andres Aguilar. Balshi was among the instruc­tors of the course.

I loved the course; it was truly enlight­en­ing,” Nee said. My favorite part was the pas­sion sto­ries of the pre­sen­ters and how they are dri­ven to impact the lives of all those who need to con­sume this amaz­ing elixir.”


Jay Nee

For Nee, a key part of the course was learn­ing about olive oil defects and how to iden­tify low-qual­ity olive oils.

It always sur­prises me how much bad olive oil there is,” he said. The lack of effec­tive over­sight is a shame and frankly does a dis­ser­vice to qual­ity pro­duc­ers but also leaves so many peo­ple in the dark about the ben­e­fits of great extra vir­gin olive oil.”

I will apply the infor­ma­tion in my every­day deal­ings with the prod­ucts I sell,” Nee added. Becoming an ambas­sador for extra vir­gin olive oil is now a part of my DNA.”

Pre-enroll­ment is already open for the 2024 som­me­lier cer­tifi­cate pro­grams in London and New York.


Related Articles