After four days of analyzing 910 olive oils from 27 countries, the winners of the fifth annual New York International Olive Oil Competition (NYIOOC) were revealed last night at a press conference.
Despite a difficult harvest season that led to a 30 percent drop in global production, more olive oil producers than ever before submitted their brands to be judged at the world’s largest olive oil competition, overcoming countless challenges in their pursuit of quality.
This is the beginning of the sea change we have been waiting for. Producers in every region have answered our call and lifted their game.
Curtis Cord, the founder of the NYIOOC and the publisher of Olive Oil Times said before unveiling the winners, “We are not here only to celebrate the winners of this competition, we’re here for a much bigger purpose — to recognize and applaud every producer who has set out to craft the best olive oil possible under whatever conditions you faced this time.”
“Each year brings its own set of conditions and challenges and while some producers seem to have locked in on a winning formula, we have seen new enterprises emerge every year to claim their award. This means that every producer committed to excellence is a winner. You might not be recognized today, but it will happen.“
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This is the fifth year of the competition and the largest of its kind. Fifteen experts from every olive oil-producing region make up the elite panel of judges who sniff and sip blind samples to determine the cream of this year’s crop.
Cord said that the proceedings over the four days had gone smoothly. “Our judging panel and support teams have worked tirelessly throughout the week and I’m very pleased with the results,” he said.
Cord made his announcements before 200 producers, retailers, distributors, chefs and journalists at the sold-out event. “Anyone who has visited an olive grove or witnessed the making of high-quality olive oil knows the painstaking work, everyday challenges, and difficult decisions that go into making this product,” he began.
It’s a difficulty well understood and echoed by the dozens of producers who traveled from far and wide to attend the event. “It’s worth it,” said one distributor, who submitted her oil for the first time this year. “This is like the olive oil Grammys.” Viewers from around the world, who watched the live-streamed broadcast online joined the New York crowd, waiting with anticipation for the award-winners to be divulged.
The NYIOOC panel of judges, comprised of 15 expert tasters from Tunisia, Australia, Japan, Spain, Greece, Italy, US, France, Argentina, and Turkey, meticulously blind- tasted all 910 oils — the largest international collection of olive oils ever assembled.
“These judges are not only the top tasters in the world with years of experience and impressive track records, they share a deep respect for this product and the people behind it which they demonstrate by their intense focus on every sample — an extreme level of concentration that I have witnessed 910 times over the past four days,” Cord said.
Italian olive oil brands took home the most awards for the third year in a row — 124 extra virgin olive oils from Italy received awards. Spain came in a close second, with 110 awards. 71 olive oils from the U.S. received recognition. Greek producers more than doubled their number of winners from last year with 47 awards. More olive oils from around the world were represented among the winners than ever before, from countries including Portugal, Slovenia, South Africa, Croatia, Uruguay, Morocco, Brazil, and China. Altogether, 463 brands were designated the world’s best, 149 more than last year.
“There are now more top-quality oils, from more places than at any other time,” Cord said. “The data from four days of tastings by the world’s most experienced panel of sensory analysts overwhelmingly proves that efforts to make great olive oil around the world are paying off — producers in every region have answered our call and lifted their game.”
“We now have 463 brands of world-class products to choose from. 463 producers who came to New York this year with something to prove. 463 olive oils that are fresh, healthful, aromatic, well balanced and delicious. This is the beginning of the sea change we have been waiting for. Our judging panel’s meticulous analysis has exposed a clear upward trend in quality,” Cord said.
Winners ascended the stage to collect their sleek NYIOOC trophies. The crowd sipped cocktails and sampled hors d’oeuvres made by International Culinary Center (ICC) students. Cord took a moment to reflect on the loss of Dorothy Cann Hamilton, the visionary founder of the International Culinary Center, who championed and hosted the first NYIOOC at her school. “The culinary world is not what it was, but her vision lives on,” Cord said.
The winning olive oils are coveted by chefs, retailers and discerning consumers everywhere who value extra virgin olive oils of the very highest quality. “The award definitely grows sales,” said María Martínez De Ubago Arias, who won her third award for her Albea Blanca, a medium-bodied Koreneiki from Spain, and traveled from Madrid to be a part of the evening.
The full list of New York International Olive Oil Competition winners can be found on the official results website bestoliveoils.org, along with detailed information on all of the oils.
Enthusiasts and businesses can purchase the bottles on the Best New Olive Oils Marketplace portal, which connects producers, distributors, and customers. The winning brands will also be featured in the first annual “Guide to the World’s Best Olive Oils,” a printed guidebook that will be published in May.