Record Year for French Producers at World Olive Oil Competition

Producers across the south of France and Corsica earned a record-high number of awards despite a difficult harvest year from start to finish.
Maison Bremond
Jun. 21, 2021
Jasmina Nevada

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Part of our con­tin­u­ing spe­cial cov­er­age of the 2021 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.


French pro­duc­ers earned a record-high 17 awards at the 2021 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition, dou­bling the pre­vi­ous record of eight from 2020.

Producers from across the south of France and Corsica com­bined to win a total of nine Gold and eight Silver Awards from 31 entries.

We endeavor to get the French olive vari­eties bet­ter known inter­na­tion­ally and win­ning Gold for France at the NYIOOC is, there­fore, a dou­ble joy.- Louisa Sherman, owner, Domaine de Gerbaud

French pro­duc­ers had a chal­leng­ing year in 2020 with set­backs from a late spring frost dam­ag­ing olive trees across the south of the coun­try and Storm Alex ham­per­ing the har­vest in October.

The Covid-19 pan­demic brought fur­ther chal­lenges to pro­duc­ers, by hurt­ing the sales for some and damp­en­ing the demand for olive oil from the hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tor.

See Also: The Best Olive Oils from France

Among the win­ning pro­duc­ers from France was Louisa Sherman, the owner of Domaine de Gerbaud, which sits in the foothills of the south­ern Luberon mas­sif in Provence.

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Photo: Domaine de Gerbaud

Sherman said she was elated to win a Gold Award for the sec­ond time. She added that the har­vest yielded small prof­its due to the chal­lenges she faced over the past year, but extra care and effort paid div­i­dends in a dif­fer­ent way.

French olive tree vari­eties and their char­ac­ter­is­tics are not widely known by inter­na­tional tasters,” Sherman told Olive Oil Times. We endeavor to get the French olive vari­eties bet­ter known inter­na­tion­ally and win­ning Gold for France at the NYIOOC is, there­fore, a dou­ble joy.”

Domaine de Gerbaud’s olive grove is located in one of the nine French Protected Designations of Origin (PDO) areas, which focuses on the rela­tion­ship between the envi­ron­ment, cli­mate and soil to pro­duce olive oil sus­tain­ably.

Five vari­eties from a total of 1,280 Provencal olive trees yielded a unique extra vir­gin olive oil, which was pro­duced by hand at every stage of the process and relates back to its orig­i­nal envi­ron­ment.

Domaine de Gerbaud pro­duced 1,200 litres in 2020 – one-third the yield of their best har­vest of 3,600 liters – with the weather play­ing a vital fac­tor in pro­duc­tion.

Sherman said rain dur­ing the flow­er­ing period last spring fol­lowed by a cold snap dur­ing fruit form­ing severely dam­aged the yield. She added that the small har­vest also exac­er­bates the high pro­duc­tion costs in France.

Located slightly north­east in the depart­ment of Haute Provence, Maison Bremond 1830 won two Gold Awards in their sec­ond year com­pet­ing in the World Olive Oil Competition.

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Photo: Maison Bremond 1830

The com­pany earned the Gold Awards for a pair of mono­va­ri­etal Aglandaus, its Green Fruity Heritage and Ripe Fruity Heritage brands.

The fam­ily busi­ness hand­picks and presses their olives at the local olive mill, Moulin du Luberon, and shares their pas­sion for the ter­roir with Domaine de Gerbaud, which they believe is borne out in the final prod­uct.

We’re enor­mously proud and hon­ored that both of our olive oils won a Gold Award,” Laetitia Casanova, the company’s mar­ket­ing direc­tor, told Olive Oil Times. It is an inter­na­tional recog­ni­tion that rewards long and com­plex work. It’s extremely encour­ag­ing for us and our pro­duc­ers.”

The olive oils pro­duced by Maison Bremond are dis­tin­guished by the fact that the olives orig­i­nate from the same grove, but are picked on two dif­fer­ent dates.

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The Green Fruity Heritage olives are picked first in the early har­vest, which came in November 2020. The olives for the Ripe Fruity Heritage came from the sec­ond har­vest, which took place in December 2020.

The result is two con­trast­ing vari­eties of oil. Green Fruity Heritage is aro­matic with flow­ery notes, while the Ripe Fruity Heritage has a com­plex and ripe fruiti­ness.

Along with pro­duc­ing their own olive oil, Maison Bremond is also a del­i­catessen and works with sev­eral pro­duc­ers. This means that it is hard to define pre­cisely the quan­tity of olive oil that they pro­duced in 2020

Right now, it’s too early to tell,” Casanova said. The weather was quite dif­fer­ent this year in spring com­pared to last year, but we are still extremely opti­mistic. Not only does the cli­mate impact olive pro­duc­tion, but we also still have peo­ple with great knowl­edge, who can han­dle bad sit­u­a­tions… And this knowl­edge is con­stant.”

The recog­ni­tion of these awards has left the pro­duc­ers behind Maison Bremond con­fi­dent that they are pro­duc­ing a qual­ity label and can expand their inter­na­tional pro­file.

About 150 kilo­me­ters east of the Luberon mas­sif, just out­side of the coastal city of Nice, the pro­duc­ers behind Champsoleil returned to their win­ning ways at the 2021 NYIOOC, earn­ing two Gold Awards.

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Photo: Henri Derepas

Champsoleil pro­duced between 30 and 35 tons of extra vir­gin olive oil in the 2020/21 crop year from its organic groves, which are located within the PDO Nice region.

The south­east­ern French pro­ducer earned the two awards for its L’Efemera brand, an organic del­i­cate blend, and its Lou Divin Preludi brand, a del­i­cate Cailletier.

Since our first pre­sen­ta­tion at the NYIOOC, our Grand Cru, l’Efemèra, has always won Gold Awards from the team of experts,” owner Henri Derepas told Olive Oil Times. This year was a dou­ble shot’ as our Cuvée Prestige PDO Nice Lou Divin Préludi won the same dis­tinc­tion.”

Just like his col­leagues far­ther west, Derepas added that he and his trees were not exempted from the inclement weather that struck the south of France through­out 2020, although he admit­ted to fair­ing bet­ter than many oth­ers in the region.

All of us pro­duc­ers know that a suc­cess­ful year is not a long, quiet river. To real­ize a suc­cess­ful vin­tage some­times seems like cross­ing a sea of obsta­cles,” he said. Frost, hail, drought, floods and this year’s Storm Alex; in 40 years of hard but fas­ci­nat­ing work, we have known the worst con­di­tions, but this has never stopped us from achiev­ing the best qual­ity.”

Back on the west­ern edge of Provence, in the PDO Vallée des Baux-de-Provence area, the pro­duc­ers behind Moulin de la Coquille cel­e­brated their first-ever win at the NYIOOC.

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Photo: Moulin de la Coquille

We started this year by win­ning two gold medals in our region, but learn­ing about win­ning at the NYIOOC in our first year of reg­is­tra­tion was even greater news,” owner Marie-Josée Sirvent told Olive Oil Times. It is the accom­plish­ment of years of hard work for our lit­tle fam­ily com­pany.”

Sirvent added that the Gold Award was espe­cially grat­i­fy­ing after the pro­duc­ers expe­ri­enced a chal­leng­ing year while con­vert­ing their trees into an organic grove.

The 2020/21 har­vest was chal­leng­ing in our region because of the lack of olives,” she said. Compared to oth­ers, we were lucky to have a pretty good har­vest. Our chal­lenge was about keep­ing the olives on the trees in a good state, with­out using any pes­ti­cide.”

While the major­ity of French NYIOOC win­ners are from Provence, a Corsican pro­ducer also cel­e­brated its first win at the World Competition.

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Photo: Domaine Petricajola

Domaine Petricajola earned its Gold Award for an organic medium Frantoio.

We are happy and proud to have won at the NYIOOC on our first try,” owner Félicien Luciani told Olive Oil Times. This award is the con­se­cra­tion of 15 years of work, always seek­ing to obtain the best pos­si­ble oil with­out com­pro­mis­ing on qual­ity and pay­ing per­ma­nent atten­tion to detail.”

Luciani said every year brings its own chal­lenges for organic farm­ers, with 2020 serv­ing as no excep­tion. However, he touted his abil­ity to adapt to these changes as being both envi­ron­men­tally respon­si­ble and his secret to suc­cess.

You have to con­stantly adapt and know how to renew your tech­niques, always respect­ing nature and the olive tree,” he said.


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