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.”