Fairs, Competitions

Croatian Brands Win Big in New York

Croatian olive oils came in fourth after Italy, Spain and the United States, a significant result for a small country with a modest production.

Mirjana Kanzler accepted a Best in Class Award for Šoltansko Maslinovo Ulje at the 2019 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition
May. 28, 2019
By Isabel Putinja
Mirjana Kanzler accepted a Best in Class Award for Šoltansko Maslinovo Ulje at the 2019 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition

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The num­ber of entries to the New York Inter­na­tional Olive Oil Com­pe­ti­tion (NYIOOC) from Croa­tia has been increas­ing steadily with each year.

At NYIOOC 2019, a record 61 entries were received from Croa­t­ian olive oil pro­duc­ers, with 51 win­ning awards: a suc­cess rate of 84 per­cent.

Obvi­ously, we are very proud of the excel­lent result we got on our very first attempt at the world’s most pres­ti­gious olive oil com­pe­ti­tion.- Karmino Beletić, Al Tor­cio

Croa­t­ian pro­duc­ers came fourth in the award stand­ings after Italy, Spain and the United States (with one award more than Croa­tia), a sig­nif­i­cant result for a small coun­try with a mod­est annual pro­duc­tion.

Of the 51 Croa­t­ian win­ning olive oils, 32 were awarded Gold Awards and 18 Sil­ver, while one was awarded Best in Class.

See more: The Best Olive Oils from Croa­tia

Forty-five of the 51 win­ning oils orig­i­nate from the penin­sula of Istria in the North Adri­atic Sea, an olive-grow­ing region that has been gain­ing recog­ni­tion for its high-qual­ity olive oil with each pass­ing year.


Croa­t­i­a’s other main olive region is Dal­ma­tia, the region stretch­ing south­wards along Croa­t­i­a’s Adri­atic coast­line and includes its neigh­bor­ing islands.

The biggest win­ner was Agro­la­guna, a large wine and olive oil pro­ducer in Istria known for its Ol Istria range of olive oils, which took home three Golds and a Sil­ver at NYIOOC 2019.

Also notable was the Best in Class that went to the organic Šoltan­sko Masli­novo Ulje (olive oil from the island of Šolta) pro­duced from the native Šoltanka cul­ti­var (also known as Lev­an­tinka) by a col­lec­tive of pro­duc­ers from the island.

Olive oil from Šolta island is one of the five Croa­t­ian olive oils enjoy­ing Pro­tected Des­ig­na­tion of Ori­gin (PDO) sta­tus at the Euro­pean Union level, along with other pro­tected oils from the islands of Cres, Krk and Korčula.

Ear­lier this year, a multi-coun­try PDO was granted to olive oil from the penin­sula of Istria, which is shared geo­graph­i­cally by both Croa­tia and Slove­nia.

Among the first-time entries at NYIOOC 2019 from Croa­tia was ŽŽ Zdrava Hrana, a mono­va­ri­etal Oblica native to Dal­ma­tia that was rec­og­nized for its high qual­ity with a Gold Award.

We were very happy and proud to win Gold because we invested a lot of love and effort into the pro­duc­tion of our olive oil. We con­sider NYIOOC to be one of the most impor­tant and most pres­ti­gious world­wide com­pe­ti­tions of olive oil,” Žarko Željko said of the win.

Željko’s 15-acre organic olive farm of 450 olive trees is located in Selca, in the south-east­ern cor­ner of the island of Brač, which has a long his­tory of olive cul­ti­va­tion.

The oil is made of olives cul­ti­vated in unpol­luted soil,” he said. Grass and weeds are removed man­u­ally and sheep graze on the grass and fer­til­ize the soil nat­u­rally. I don’t use chem­i­cal fer­til­iz­ers.”

Har­vest­ing is done man­u­ally and press­ing com­mences only a few hours after har­vest in order to pre­serve all the fla­vors and aro­mas of the olives,” he added. I use no preser­v­a­tives, addi­tives, col­orants or fla­vor enhancers. This is a pure whole food.”

Željko care­fully super­vises all aspects of pro­duc­tion and pro­cess­ing to ensure a qual­ity prod­uct and is sat­is­fied with results.

The con­tent of oleic acid and per­ox­ide value of our oil is much lower than required for a supe­rior qual­ity olive oil,” he said. This is the result of doing every­thing man­u­ally with­out assis­tance of any machin­ery, and giv­ing all my love and affec­tion to my olive trees. Every drop of olive oil con­tains the aroma and fla­vor of the olives from the island of Brač.”

Istrian fam­ily pro­duc­ers Al Tor­cio were also first-time par­tic­i­pants at NYIOOC, win­ning two Golds and a Sil­ver Award. They received Golds for their mono­va­ri­etals Al Tor­cio Fran­toio and Al Tor­cio Itrana, and a Sil­ver for their Al Tor­cio Rosulja, also a monocul­ti­var.

We are a small fam­ily-owned pro­ducer from north-west­ern Istria,” Karmino Beletić told Olive Oil Times. We’re con­tin­u­ing the 25-year project of my father, Tran­quilino, who passed away three years ago and whose idea it was to cre­ate a bou­tique olive mill, which will pro­duce only the best olive oils.”

After win­ning gold medals at com­pe­ti­tions in Europe, includ­ing Arezzo, Rome, Ham­burg, Paris, Zagreb, and Split, we decided to try the Amer­i­can con­ti­nent,” he added.

The fam­i­ly’s 1,800 olive trees grow in five dif­fer­ent groves in Novi­grad, on hills over­look­ing the Adri­atic Sea.

This is very impor­tant, as the winds from the sea bring salin­ity, which acts as a nat­ural puri­fier,” Beletić said. We use a spe­cial self-pro­duced fer­til­izer obtained from a fer­mented olive mill pomace. Olives are picked exclu­sively by hand and milled within a few hours in our own olive mill.”

The fam­ily pro­duces eight dif­fer­ent sin­gle cul­ti­vars: Lec­cino, Pen­dolino, Fran­toio, Rosulja, Itrana, Ascolana, Bjel­ica, Moraiolo, as well as a blend.

Obvi­ously, we are very proud of the excel­lent result we got on our very first attempt at the world’s most pres­ti­gious olive oil com­pe­ti­tion,” Beletić said of the win. This is very impor­tant as we would like to offer our extra vir­gin olive oil to the Amer­i­can mar­ket which is very dif­fer­ent to the Euro­pean one.”

Another new­comer to NYIOOC to win Gold was the Bodis fam­ily from South Istria.

We are a small fam­ily pro­ducer who started this olive adven­ture along­side our suc­cess­ful tra­di­tional bee­keep­ing,” Ana Bodis said. Our organ­i­cally grown olives are sur­rounded by forests and we keep our bees in the olive grove where we also find extra­or­di­nary bio­di­ver­sity that includes lots of insects that are preda­tors for olive pests.”

The fam­i­ly’s gold-win­ning name­sake Bodis is an organic blend of the Lec­cino, Pen­dolino, Buža and Istrian Bjel­ica vari­eties.

This was our first time par­tic­i­pat­ing in NYIOOC,” Bodis added. We were pleas­antly sur­prised because win­ning a prize with so much com­pe­ti­tion is a great achieve­ment for us. It’s con­fir­ma­tion that we are mov­ing in the right direc­tion and gives us the moti­va­tion to move for­ward.”

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