93 Spanish Brands Among World's Best Olive Oils

Three Best in Class awards and 66 Gold Awards at the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition again affirm Spain among the world's top producers of high-quality olive oils.

Viewing some of the award-winning oils at the 2018 NYIOOC (photo: NYIOOC)
May. 1, 2018
By Pablo Esparza
Viewing some of the award-winning oils at the 2018 NYIOOC (photo: NYIOOC)

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In spite of a slight decrease in the num­ber of entries from 2017 — from 167 to 151- Spain came in sec­ond in terms of the total num­ber of awards, only after Italy, and reached the third posi­tion in entries, after Italy and Greece.

Being awarded among so many pro­duc­ers from so many coun­tries is a very emo­tive recog­ni­tion of our work.- Lola Sagra, Best in Class win­ner Nobleza del Sur

Eighteen judges from 13 coun­tries eval­u­ated the unprece­dented 1,000 entries at the N2018 YOOC. Brands from a record 22 coun­tries were awarded.
See Also: The Best Olive Oils from Spain
This is a com­pe­ti­tion with a lot of weight. We pro­duc­ers appre­ci­ate it because it is pres­ti­gious and that gives us con­fi­dence. Being awarded among so many pro­duc­ers from so many coun­tries is a very emo­tive recog­ni­tion of our work,” said Lola Sagra, man­ager of Nobleza del Sur.

The com­pa­ny’s Centenarium Premium, har­vested and pro­duced in Jaén, Spain’s main olive oil pro­duc­tion area, won the Best in Class Award for a del­i­cate Picual.

Jorge Petit, man­ager of Masía el Altet, also points at the high num­ber of con­tenders as one of the key attrac­tions of the NYIOOC. The estate in Alicante, in Eastern Spain’s Valencia region, won three Gold Awards for its robust Picual and medium and del­i­cate blends.

This has an extra­or­di­nary impact for us, espe­cially on the U.S. mar­ket. And win­ning awards is some­thing nice, some­thing that moti­vates us,” Petit told Olive Oil Times.

According to Sagra, one of the main trends in the Spanish olive oil sec­tor, as seen at the New York com­pe­ti­tion, is the shift towards qual­ity.

We’ve always been great farm­ers. Now we have to be able to show the world how good our work is,” she added.

Alberto Barrobès, owner and man­ager of Montsagre, agrees that qual­ity has become the main focus for a new gen­er­a­tion of olive oil pro­duc­ers in Spain.

His organic del­i­cate Picual from Horta de Sant Joan, in the South of Catalonia, was awarded as the Best in Class in that cat­e­gory.

The New York Competition was the first con­test we took part in a few years ago. We think it sets a sort of pat­tern in terms of qual­ity. So being rec­og­nized there is a test that we are achiev­ing the qual­ity we are look­ing for,” Barrobès told OOT. We are a fam­ily run busi­ness with a medium size plan­ta­tion of 12,000 trees and from 2011 our main focus is qual­ity and respect to the envi­ron­ment.”

Eusebio García de la Cruz, owner and co-founder along with his brother of García de la Cruz olive oil com­pany received a Gold Award for his Amphora oil in the cat­e­gory of organic medium blend.

Speaking from his New York office, García de la Cruz sug­gests that the inter­na­tional per­cep­tion of Spanish olive oil is in a process of change.

Eusebio García de la Cruz

This sec­tor is fac­ing very impor­tant changes in the next few years. For exam­ple, I think that Spain will soon over­take Italy as the largest exporter of bot­tled olive oil in the world. We are the largest pro­ducer with a huge dif­fer­ence and I believe that the per­cep­tion of the qual­ity of Spanish oils is also improv­ing. There is a long way to go in many aspects though.”

With as esti­mate pro­duc­tion of 1.09 mil­lion tons of olive oil in 2018, Spain saw a 15 per­cent decrease from 2017’s cam­paign accord­ing to the International Olive Council, mainly due to per­sis­tent drought. However, these num­bers place the Southern European coun­try well ahead of its main com­peti­tor in terms of quan­tity.

Italy and Greece, with a total pro­duc­tion of around 300,000 tons each, remain a long dis­tance behind Spain despite hav­ing firmly recov­ered from 2017 with a 76 per­cent and 54 per­cent respec­tive pro­duc­tion increase in the cur­rent sea­son.

We are in a deci­sive moment for this sec­tor. I think this sec­tor is grow­ing, but we need to grow not only in vol­ume but in terms of cul­ture,” Francisco José Martín de Prado told OOT.

Samuel Niglio received a Gold Award for Oleum Excelsus

Martín de Prado is the pro­ducer of Primicia Blend, a robust blend from Extremadura in the west­ern­most region of Spain which was selected as Best in Class.

Martín de Prado argues that in Spain, as in other Mediterranean coun­tries, olive oil is seen as a basic prod­uct that is often taken for granted.

One can­not under­stand Spanish food with­out it,” Martín de Prado said. However, there is a lack of cul­ture and we have to improve con­sumers’ knowl­edge about qual­ity olive oils. I think we have a promis­ing way ahead, although per­haps more at an inter­na­tional level than a national one.”

Spain’s con­tenders at the NYIOOC also reveal the diver­sity of the Spanish olive oil sec­tor in terms of pro­duc­ing regions and cul­ti­vars.

From Jaén and Cordoba, at the heart of the country’s tra­di­tional olive oil sec­tor, to Catalonia, Extremadura, Castilla La Mancha and Valencia, the award-win­ning pro­duc­ers draw a rich and diverse map.

We are maybe a bit far from the cen­ter,’ but I don’t think that makes us so dif­fer­ent. There is also an oil tra­di­tion here and the vol­ume of pro­duc­tion has increased in recent years. I believe we have the same good con­di­tions Jaén has to pro­duce good qual­ity. It’s taken time, but we are doing well,” said Martín de Prado.

Varieties such as Pajarera from Córdoba or Empeltre from Aragon and Catalonia offer an approach to local fla­vors that go beyond the most com­mon Spanish vari­eties Picual, Arbequina and Hojiblanca.


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