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Croatians Strike Gold at World Olive Oil Competition

Croatian olive oil producers earned 49 awards from 60 entries at the 2020 NYIOOC.
Photo courtesy of Božidar and Petra Balić of Uljara Božić
Jun. 1, 2020
Isabel Putinja

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Croatian pro­duc­ers earned 49 awards at the 2020 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition, once again demon­strat­ing the high stan­dard of qual­ity in the small pro­duc­ing nation.

It is deeply impor­tant that our small town of Vodice got the oppor­tu­nity to put its pin on the map of the world of top-qual­ity olive oil.- Tomislav Duvnjak, pro­ducer of Sveti Ivan

Thirty-eight of the 49 win­ning oils sub­mit­ted this year hailed from Istria, Croatia’s north­west­ern penin­sula, while the 11 oth­ers were pro­duced in the coastal region of Dalmatia and a few of its islands, namely Hvar, Šolta and Dugi Otok.

Five types of Croatian extra vir­gin olive oil enjoy PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) sta­tus at the European Union level. These include a multi-coun­try des­ig­na­tion shared by Croatia and Slovenia for olive oil pro­duced in Istria, while those from the Adriatic islands of Cres, Krk, Korčula and Šolta have their own PDO sta­tus.

See Also: The Best Olive Oils From Croatia

Most notable among this year’s win­ners were Istrian pro­duc­ers Oleum Maris and Avistria, with three awards each.

Oleum Maris’ brand, Oio Vivo, earned three Gold Awards for sev­eral excel­lent mono­va­ri­etals made from vari­eties native to Istria: Buža, Žižolera and Istarska Bjelica.

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Meanwhile, Avistria were awarded two Golds for their oils made from Buža olives, as well as a Silver Award for their Istrian Blend.

Harvesting the olives for Avistria’s award-win­ning oils. Photo cour­tesy of Rudolf and Beatrix Nemetschke

The win­ning team behind Avistria is an Austrian cou­ple, Rudolf and Beatrix Nemetschke, who tend olive groves cov­er­ing 12 acres of red soil in Sveti Lovreč, in the west­ern part of the penin­sula.

This com­pe­ti­tion is not only impor­tant for our cus­tomers, which include restau­rants, hotels, delis and pri­vate gourmets, but also for all the peo­ple who work with us,” Rudolf Nemetschke said. For them, it’s very impor­tant for us to meet the qual­ity stan­dards of a Gold Award.”

Producing olive oil means work­ing all year long, mak­ing sev­eral cru­cial tim­ing deci­sions with regard to prun­ing, water­ing and har­vest­ing,” he added. A Gold Award means that many or most of the efforts and deci­sions were right. It also means that we were lucky this year: no storms, hail, frost or flies!”

For the peo­ple work­ing in the olive grove, it’s the most impor­tant con­fir­ma­tion of their work,” Nemetschke con­cluded. We opened a bot­tle of cham­pagne on that news!”

For the Černeka fam­ily, pro­duc­ers of Uljara Torkop in north­ern Istria, a first-time entry to the NYIOOC has paid off with a Gold Award for their Černeka, a mono­va­ri­etal extra vir­gin olive oil made from Istarska Bjelica olives. Their ter­raced groves cover a hilly area of chalky lime­stone soil near the bor­der with Slovenia and the fam­ily has their own on-site oil mill.

We par­tic­i­pated in the NYIOOC for the first time,” Dražen Černeka told Olive Oil Times. We’re over­joyed with the result,” he added. This is another indi­ca­tion that our year-long efforts have paid off and proof that we have been main­tain­ing the qual­ity of our olive oils for years now. For us, qual­ity comes first.”

As it is for many producers, the harvest is a family affair for the Černekas. Photo courtesy of Dražen Černeka

Another major olive-grow­ing region in Croatia is the sun-kissed region of Dalmatia, which extends south along the coast­line of the Adriatic Sea and includes more than a thou­sand islands. Oil pro­duc­ers from Hvar have put the Dalmatian island on the map thanks to their excel­lent results at the NYIOOC.

In Bogomolje, a vil­lage in the east of the island, Ivo Radojković nur­tures an olive grove planted with native Oblica and Levantinka olives.

He comes from a fam­ily of olive grow­ers and returned to Hvar after a career in the cap­i­tal city of Zagreb. The Garden of Eden, a mono­va­ri­etal made of Levantinka olives, received a Gold Award.

I was hon­ored,” Radojković said. This is con­fir­ma­tion that I pro­duce top-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil, which seems to be among the best in the world. Producing olive oil on the island is very demand­ing and pro­cess­ing olives is very expen­sive because it depends solely on human labor.”

Our fields are scat­tered, we do not have a large field with a large num­ber of olive trees,” he added. I think that this is an advan­tage as we pro­duce small amounts of olive oil, but we do not use pes­ti­cides and machin­ery. We respect the envi­ron­ment and we live in har­mony with nature.”

Another chal­lenge for the island’s pro­duc­ers in recent years has been insuf­fi­cient rain­fall.

Climate change has brought long peri­ods of drought which can have a neg­a­tive impact on yield,” Radojković said. Olive trees, there­fore, require more care than ever. Behind every drop of our olive oil is love and devo­tion to this sacred tree, ded­i­ca­tion to liv­ing in har­mony with nature and great respect for the rocky karst soil that we work every day.”

Radojković’s Garden of Eden in Bogomolje, on the island of Hvar. Photo courtesy of Ivo Radojković

Another Gold for a Hvar olive oil went to Božidar and Petra Balić of Uljara Božić for their Bozic Uje, made from Oblica olives.

We live on the sun­ni­est island in the world,” Božidar said. Our olive groves are sur­rounded by nat­ural fla­vor­ful fruits and wild herbs, which gives extra taste to our extra vir­gin olive oil. The com­bi­na­tion of sun, light rain, nutri­ent-rich soil and fresh sea salted winds gives us excel­lent olive grow­ing con­di­tions.”

This is our fourth time par­tic­i­pat­ing in the NYIOOC and our third Gold Award,” he added. Winning a Gold Award at the NYIOOC means a lot for us. It means that our Oblica is one of the best olive vari­eties in the world and it gives us the strength to work harder and learn more. It tells us that we are doing good work in the olive groves. It also brings us a lot of new cus­tomers and recog­ni­tion from all around the world.”

Hailing from the coastal town of Vodice on the Dalmatian main­land is Tomislav Duvnjak who has put in years of hard work pro­duc­ing extra vir­gin olive oils from the Oblica and Levantinka cul­ti­vars as well as Frantoio and Leccino olives.

At the 2020 NYIOOC, Duvnjak won a Silver Award from his mono­va­ri­etal Sveti Ivan Oblica, as well as a Gold for his Sveti Ivan Blend.

Harvesting olives in Vodice. Photo courtesy of Tomislav Duvnjak

This was the first time we par­tic­i­pated in the NYIOOC,” Duvnjak said. Our whole lit­tle team was beyond excited and so proud when we real­ized we’ve won a Gold Award, par­tic­u­larly because this was the first renowned inter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion we took part in.”

We decided to par­tic­i­pate for a few rea­sons,” he added. One of them is cer­tainly that we are aware of the high qual­ity of our olive oil, so we wanted inter­na­tional acknowl­edg­ment of that qual­ity at a pres­ti­gious com­pe­ti­tion like this one.”

For Duvnjak, win­ning an award is not only impor­tant as an acknowl­edg­ment of qual­ity but also a way to put Dalmatian olive oil on the map.

It is deeply impor­tant that our small town of Vodice got the oppor­tu­nity to put its pin on the map of the world of top-qual­ity olive oil,” he said. This is the way to start build­ing a brand, a Dalmatian brand of exquis­ite qual­ity olive oil.”

Only then can we stand together with fel­low Istrian pro­duc­ers and be rec­og­nized as a coun­try that makes the best olive oil in the world.”


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