The results of the seventh New York International Olive Oil Competition demonstrated the professionalism and determination of Italian producers, who masterfully overcame all the obstacles posed by one of the most difficult seasons for their olive groves in recent memory.
In order to get their samples to New York and onto the palates of the judges, Italian producers first had to overcome a series of adverse weather events, including winter frosts, summer humidity and strong winds during the harvest, as well as combat pests that came as a result of the humidity. These hardships resulted in a poor harvest, in terms of quantity, but not in terms of quality.
We have not been able to reach our usual amount of fruits harvested. The bad season affected the quantity but not the quality, and these awards confirm that we did a great job of which I am really proud.
Italian producers submitted the most entries to the competition, sending 223 samples to be judged. From these, the international panel of the NYIOOC awarded 152 Italian extra virgin olive oils — the most awards collected by any country.
Among the producers celebrating that night was Cesare Bianchini, whose Domenica Fiore enjoyed a record year, collecting seven awards.
“We are very happy,” Bianchini said. “We won with all our labels, including a new product, ‘Novello di notte,’ a blend of Leccino and Frantoio harvested at night.”
He explained that the team at Domenica Fiore had to be reactive and flexible in their harvesting practices this year in order to prevent any loss in polyphenols due to heavy rains.
“We wanted to extract as much green and antioxidants as possible from our oils,” Bianchini said. “Therefore, since it was really warm, we also thought about trying to collect part of fruits at night.”
“It turned out to be difficult but fun,” he added. “The final overall result of our work is excellent, and we are excited about all these recognitions.”
Francesca Boni was also celebrating on Friday night, and saw the 2019 NYIOOC as a further confirmation of how the highest quality standards have been maintained, even through a challenging season for Traldi Farm.
“I am extremely pleased with this result, especially since this season put our skills to a real test,” the producer from Lazio said, after taking home two Gold awards for her Athos and Exiumius brands.
Her olive trees are located on the hills of Tuscia, in Vetralla, where Boni and her team of professionals expertly manage the autochthonous variety Caninese, flanked by Frantoio, Moraiolo, Leccino and Pendolino.
“We must consider that we have not been able to reach our usual amount of fruits harvested,” she said. “However, the bad season affected the quantity but not the quality, and these awards confirm that we did a great job of which I am really proud.”
Costantino Russo, of Azienda Agricola Russo, spent most of the night awake waiting for the results too. The wait was well worth it, though, as he won a Gold award for Iobio, an organic medium Minucciola.
“How wonderful to receive this recognition,“he said. “With Iobio [a play on words between Io, which is Italian for ‘I’ and Bio, which means ‘organic’], we wanted to give a further message of sustainability and respect for our beautiful territory.”
Russo, who has produced other award-winning extra virgin olive oils from Minucciola in the Sorrento Peninsula, said that this particular oil came from plants recently added to his land.
“Every time I came home, I used to walk through secular abandoned olive groves with a wonderful view of Capri and Mount Vesuvius,” he said. “Eventually, I was able to purchase those olive trees, and then, my father Arcangelo carried out reform pruning. After a year, they gradually started to bear fruits again, and this is the great final result of our hard, but worthwhile work.”
Among the first time winners at this year’s edition of the NYIOOC, was Pietro Pollizzi, who won a Gold award for his Enotre Berico oil. He told Olive Oil Times that the win was especially satisfying due to the close bond his company has with an American non-profit organization.
“It’s incredible, and I can hardly believe it,” Pollizzi said. “We have a special bond with the U.S., as we collaborate with the non-profit organization My City Kitchen, and finally this year we decided to participate in the NYIOOC. This result is a recognition of all the efforts made during a difficult year.”
Pollizzi manages mostly native varieties, such as Carolea, at his farm in Mesoraca, in the region of Calabria.
“I also have plants of Leccio del Corno that I used in a blend with the Coratina for my award-winning extra virgin olive oil,” he said. “I take care of my olive trees with a group of great co-workers, who have allowed me to end the season on a high note. I want to dedicate this win to my territory, which still has such a lot of potential and quality opportunities.”
“We are very happy, and we see this award as a wish to start working with the U.S. market even more effectively,” Fois said after hearing the result.
Scattered over an area of 618 acres between Alghero and Sassari, Fois’s Riserva del Produttore consists of 80 percent Bosana olives blended with Semidana and Tonda di Cagliari this year. He said that these percentages may change based on the harvest and also added that there are plans to extend the groves.
“We have a project to expand our olive groves over the next five years,” he said. “We will continue to plant autochthonous varieties which are closely linked to and represent our wonderful territory.”
Farther southwest of Sardinia, on the island of Sicily, Calcedonio Calcara of Sciauro di Sicilia, which in local dialect means ‘scent of Sicily,’ celebrated his Gold award for a delicate ‘Nocerella del Belice.’
“We are really glad about this success, especially since it was the first time that we participated in the NYIOOC,” Calcara said. “This is a great acknowledgement of our dedication and work for years.”
Calcara took the reins of his family company, which is located in Castelvetrano, 15 years ago.
“I strongly believe that olive farming can provide a valuable way of development,” he said. “In addition to personal satisfaction, we believe that this award should give a boost to all those who are part of our territory, because quality in agriculture gives extraordinary opportunities, especially for young people, and this also makes us very proud.”
Calcara’s plants of Nocellara, Biancolilla and Cerasuola are at the heart of the PDO Valle del Belice Sciauro and the award-winning monovarietal Magaria, which means ‘magic’ in the local dialect, and serves as a tribute to the enchanting qualities of his extra virgin olive oil.