Croatian Producers Celebrate Success at NYIOOC

Among the 45 Croatian brands, 40 were awarded at the 2018 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

May. 9, 2018
By Isabel Putinja

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Croatia’s olive oil pro­duc­ers have been steadily mak­ing a mark at the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition by win­ning more prizes with each com­ing year. Forty awards went to Croatian olive oils at 2018 NYIOOC com­pared to 22 in 2017 and nine in 2016.

Our aim is to widen hori­zons and cross bor­ders in the olive oil world, always keep­ing a sin­gle promise of qual­ity.- Jelena Cvetković, Kozlović

Overall, Croatia came in fifth place this year with the high­est num­ber of awards after Italy, Spain, the U.S. and Greece — an extra­or­di­nary per­for­mance for a small coun­try with a pop­u­la­tion of only 4.2 mil­lion. Among the 45 brands sub­mit­ted by Croatian pro­duc­ers, 40 won awards — a suc­cess rate of 89 per­cent. As a small pro­duc­ing coun­try that can­not pro­vide in terms of quan­tity, it excels in quality.
See Also: The Best Olive Oils from Croatia
Of the 40 awards that went to Croatian pro­duc­ers, there were 27 Golds, 11 Silvers, and two Best of Class. Most of the awards, includ­ing the two Best in Class and 21 Golds, were awarded to pro­duc­ers in the north­west­ern region of Istria, a penin­sula in the North Adriatic sea. 

The Best in Class Awards went to De Kleva, a medium blend pro­duced by OPG Buršić Marija in Brtonigla, north­ern Istria; and the mono­va­ri­etal Buža Bembo by OPG Lupić located in Bale, in the south of the peninsula. 

Mili Kus was the only pro­ducer who trav­elled from Croatia to New York for the award ceremony. 

Oliva Lucia producer Mili Kus received a Gold Award from NYIOOC president Curtis Cord on April 26

I went to New York with low expec­ta­tions,” Kus told Olive Oil Times. The end of April is usu­ally very busy because that’s when I’m prun­ing my trees but I was glad I was able to travel to New York. I wanted to be part of the expe­ri­ence and meet other pro­duc­ers. When I arrived on award night I saw that there were 100 olive oils on dis­play but mine was­n’t there. Did I not make the grade?’ I won­dered. But I was happy to see so many from Istria. I also had the chance to speak to some of the judges and they told me that the qual­ity of entries was very high.” 

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Last year Kus’ organic Oliva Lucia was awarded a Silver. This year she returned to Croatia with a Gold award in her suit­case. When I heard Oliva Lucia announced as the win­ner of a Gold Award, I just could­n’t believe it! I went up on stage to col­lect my tro­phy and the rest of the evening was just a blur.” 

The major­ity of this year’s awardees from Croatia are repeat win­ners. Among the first-time par­tic­i­pants are a few well-estab­lished pro­duc­ers. One of these is Chiavalon. Like many local pro­duc­ers, this is a fam­ily-owned busi­ness run by broth­ers Sandi and Tedi Chiavalon and based in Vodnjan, south­ern Istria. 

Yes, this is the first time we par­tic­i­pated in this big com­pe­ti­tion,” con­firmed Tedi. We decided to enter because it was impor­tant for us to see how New York would react to our olive oil. We’ve won so many prizes from all over the world, win­ning gold at prac­ti­cally every competition.” 

Tedi and Sandi Chiavalon

The broth­ers won a Silver at 2018 NYIOOC for their organic Ex Albis oil, a medium blend described as rich in aro­mas and fruity with bal­anced pun­gency and bitterness.” 

We sent in our Ex Albis oil to the com­pe­ti­tion because we feel it best rep­re­sents us,” shared Tedi. It’s a blend of five native Istrian vari­eties: Buža, Crnica, Istarska Bjelica, Rožinjola and Moražola. It bal­ances bit­ter­ness and spici­ness and is an all-around oil that can be used with everything.” 

We export to many Asian coun­tries and for the past three years we’ve also been export­ing to the US and we’re very proud of this as it’s a huge mar­ket,” he added. We’re not a big pro­ducer but we pay atten­tion to each and every detail of the pro­duc­tion process to ensure the high­est qual­ity. We’ve invested in a Mori two-phase milling machine so now we can per­son­ally con­trol each stage of the process to the final prod­uct. Nothing is bet­ter than pro­cess­ing your own oil directly after har­vest. With this machine, we can keep the tem­per­a­ture at 19°C, max­i­mum 21, and there’s no water used in the process at all. And we see the dif­fer­ence in our oil: it’s even higher in polyphe­nols and more fruity.” 

Another well-known Istrian pro­ducer and a first-time NYIOOC par­tic­i­pant is the Puhar-O’Grady fam­ily and their brand Brist run by Silvano Puhar, his daugh­ter Lena Puhar O’Grady, and his Irish son-in-law Paul O’Grady. 

The Puhar-O’Grady family

We were excited and delighted to hear of our gold at NYIOOC,” said O’Grady, who’s in charge of sales and mar­ket­ing in the fam­ily busi­ness. It is impor­tant because we get to test our­selves against the very best pro­duc­ers in the world and have our oils exam­ined by a pres­ti­gious panel of experts. We have the good for­tune to be sur­rounded, in Istria, by many world-class pro­duc­ers, thus the stan­dard we aspire to must be excep­tion­ally high. For us, the award is more of a val­i­da­tion that we remain on the right path, how­ever in many ways our most impor­tant feed­back comes directly from our clients and part­ners — their sto­ries, their reac­tions and their con­tin­ued sup­port are the lit­tle gold medals of every day, which mean per­haps the most to us.” 

The fam­ily won a Gold Award for their medium Buža, a lim­ited edi­tion extra vir­gin olive oil made from their far­m’s cen­turies-old trees pro­duc­ing this local olive vari­etal known for its full-bod­ied taste and bal­ance of fruity, grassy and spicy tones. 

Producing a range of oils from mild through to intense, we are always con­scious that bal­ance is really impor­tant from an organolep­tic point of view,” O’Grady explained. Our oils are very cus­tomer ori­en­tated, we think a lot about how cus­tomers need and want, and what is the right range and types that they can engage with.” 

Kozlović is a name syn­ony­mous in Croatia with some of the coun­try’s best wines. This award-win­ning win­ery located in Momjan, north­ern Istria has also branched out into pro­duc­ing olive oil with excel­lent results. Their robust blend made of the Leccino, Buža and Bianchera vari­etals received a Gold Award, another first-time win­ner at NYIOOC.

When I called my par­ents, I heard loud cheer­ing and roar­ing from the crew as my father passed on the news. They were all work­ing in the olive grove at that very moment.- Tomislav Pavlić, Olivania

We were thrilled when we found out that from 1,000 reg­is­tered sam­ples, we won a Gold Award,” said Jelena Cvetković on behalf of the com­pany. This award is impor­tant to us because it is the con­fir­ma­tion that all our hard work paid off. Winning this award is also a moti­va­tion to con­tinue work­ing with the same or even more enthusiasm.” 


The win­ery has applied the same approach it takes to pro­duc­ing its qual­ity wines to olive oil. We always like to repeat our sim­ple phi­los­o­phy, it is based on togeth­er­ness which is pre­served through gen­er­a­tions,” elab­o­rated Cvetković. We have always fol­lowed the same goal and worked on it with dili­gence and seri­ous ded­i­ca­tion. Our aim is to widen hori­zons and cross bor­ders in the olive oil world, always keep­ing a sin­gle promise of qual­ity. Doing this way from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion, we are cre­at­ing the olive oils which save the expres­sion and char­ac­ter of Istrian indige­nous varieties.” 

Another Croatian new­comer to NYIOOC is Olivania, a blend pro­duced on the Adriatic island of Lošinj from the local vari­etals Oblica, Starovjerka, Slivnjaca and Mastrinka. Tomislav Pavlić was in London when he found out that his fam­i­ly’s organic extra vir­gin olive oil won a gold. 

I was obvi­ously pleased to bits when I checked the results first thing in the morn­ing,” he told Olive Oil Times. But when I called my par­ents, I heard loud cheer­ing and roar­ing from the crew as my father passed on the news. They were all work­ing in the olive grove at that very moment.” 


The fam­ily had already won sev­eral golds for their oil from other com­pe­ti­tions over the years after rein­vig­o­rat­ing a cen­turies-old aban­doned olive grove more than twenty years ago and watch­ing it slowly thrive. 

After sev­eral years of clean­ing up what became a for­est, the orig­i­nal olive trees reap­peared lined up on stone ter­races,” Pavlić recounted. Severe prun­ing of the trees meant that the first har­vest was another few years away. During these years, we built our own road, water and elec­tric­ity pro­vi­sion in order to ulti­mately install an on-site cen­trifuge. Olivania is a truly inter­gen­er­a­tion project as my father’s heavy-duty engi­neer­ing skills are on dis­play dur­ing his retire­ment. As the son liv­ing abroad, I’m the hid­den force behind the endeavor.” 

But all hon­ors go to my father, Ivan Pavlić,” he made a point of empha­siz­ing. It’s his relent­less work over the years that cul­mi­nated in this award. While we know that we pro­duce qual­ity olive oil, oth­ers might not be able to tell straight away. This award pro­vides indis­putable recog­ni­tion. Instantly.”

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