Europe

From North to South, Portuguese Producers Welcome NYIOOC Success

Portugal won 32 Awards at this year's NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition, confirming the strong position of the country's producers on the international stage.

Pilar Abreu e Lima and Jerónimo Pedro Mendonça de Abreu e Lima
May. 25, 2020
By Pablo Esparza
Pilar Abreu e Lima and Jerónimo Pedro Mendonça de Abreu e Lima

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From the north­ern regions of the Douro Val­ley and Trás-os-Montes to Alen­tejo and the South­ern Algarve, the diver­sity of the Por­tuguese olive oils was on dis­play at this year’s edi­tion of the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Com­pe­ti­tion.

It was awe­some to enter the web and see that our oil was there,” said Ines Sam­paio, man­ager of the Coop­er­a­tiva Agri­cola dos Olivicul­tores de Murça, from Trás-Os-Montes. It was the first year that we par­tic­i­pated and it was incred­i­ble.”

It is always good to see our work being rec­og­nized in such a pos­i­tive way. It helps the sales team to assure our cus­tomers that they are really buy­ing high-qual­ity olive oil from us.- Alberto Ser­ralha, CEO of Sociedade Agrí­cola Ouro Veg­e­tal

The NYIOOC is the best and most well-known olive oil qual­ity com­pe­ti­tion out there,” she added. The best olive oils in the world are there and, if you want to be one of the best, you have to com­pete with the best.”

Azeite Porca de Murça took one of the 17 Gold Awards won by Por­tuguese olive oil pro­duc­ers.

See more: The Best Olive Oils from Por­tu­gal

Por­tu­gal also earned 15 Sil­ver Awards, and a total of 32 awards out of 52 entries, a slightly lower num­ber than last year, when 67 Por­tuguese oils com­peted in New York. Reg­is­tra­tion was halted in March due to the coro­n­avirus pan­demic.

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In this edi­tion, the NYIOOC’s panel of experts judged the 871 entries remotely, a new sys­tem adjusted to the unex­pected travel restric­tions imposed in response to COVID-19.

How­ever, as the pro­duc­ers con­tacted by Olive Oil Times high­lighted, the awards become more rel­e­vant than ever under the cur­rent cir­cum­stances.

I think this is even more impor­tant under the present sit­u­a­tion,” Sam­paio told Olive Oil Times. Peo­ple are not allowed to travel and even going to a shop has been dif­fi­cult, so con­sumers go to the inter­net and search for ref­er­ences. If we are known as one of the best oils, maybe that will help us. This award is impor­tant for that as well.”

Founded in 1956, Murça’s coop­er­a­tive has a dif­fer­ent approach to pro­duc­tion than pri­vate com­pa­nies do.

We depend on our farm­ers. At some level, that makes things more com­plex as we can­not con­trol every­thing,” Sam­paio said. How­ever, we are improv­ing our tech­niques, our equip­ment and the way we grow our trees, try­ing to make it more nat­ural every year in order to get the best juice from our olives because at the end of the day that is what our oil is.”

Aníbal Soares is the owner of Seg­re­dos do Côa, a small pro­ducer in the Douro Val­ley region, also in the north of the coun­try.

Har­vest­ing olives in the Duoro Val­ley.

I was born in an olive field,” Soares told Olive Oil Times. We are a local fam­ily from the moun­tains in the north, not far from Spain, and our olive oil tra­di­tion dates back at least to the mid-nine­teenth cen­tury.”

His organic blend of Verdeal, Madural and Negrinha de Freixo cul­ti­vars won a Gold Award in 2020 and two pre­vi­ous ones in 2018 and 2019.

This year, we sent just one olive oil to mark our pres­ence. We picked the best green olives by mid-Octo­ber to make the best oil,” Soares said. But this year was not a very good one as it rained a lot when we har­vested.”

We thought, ok, let’s do it and if we don’t get it, never mind. We’ve always received awards before, but this year was a very good sur­prise,” he added.

For me, the NYIOOC is a very well orga­nized com­pe­ti­tion and pays atten­tion to it,” Soares said. Last year, we had 13 awards in many con­tests, but most of them don’t do any­thing to pro­mote it. That may be good for our ego as pro­duc­ers but does noth­ing else. In New York, that’s dif­fer­ent.”

Cabeço das Nogueiras is a pro­ducer based in the Rib­atejo, a region in the cen­ter of the coun­try.

Their Hoji­blanca oil won a Gold Award at the NYIOOC as did their Cobrançosa mono­va­ri­etal, which had already taken a Gold Award in 2019 and 2018.

It is always good to see our work being rec­og­nized in such a pos­i­tive way,” Alberto Ser­ralha, CEO of Sociedade Agrí­cola Ouro Veg­e­tal (SAOV), the pro­ducer of the brand, told Olive Oil Times. It helps the sales team to assure our cus­tomers that they are really buy­ing high-qual­ity olive oil from us.”

The NYIOOC is a renowned com­pe­ti­tion, able to spread infor­ma­tion in an effec­tive way across the globe. New York is an iconic loca­tion for us, as our first U.S. sale took place there,” he added.

SAOV was estab­lished in 2004 and, accord­ing to Ser­ralha, rep­re­sents nearly two per­cent of Portugal’s total pro­duc­tion.

Exports rep­re­sent 60 per­cent of our sales,” he said. The U.S. is our biggest for­eign mar­ket and rep­re­sents more than half of our total inter­na­tional sales.”

Portugal’s olive oil exports have more than tripled in the last 10 years, grow­ing from 51,774 tons in 2010 to 158,688 in 2019, accord­ing to Casa do Azeite, the Por­tuguese olive oil asso­ci­a­tion.

The Iber­ian coun­try is cur­rently the world’s ninth-largest pro­ducer of olive oil and its pres­ence at the inter­na­tional qual­ity olive oil scene is well estab­lished.

At a national level, qual­ity is increas­ing year after year,” Sam­paio said. Also quan­tity, but that’s mostly thanks to the large plan­ta­tions in Alen­tejo. Here in the north, it is not easy to increase the amount of our pro­duc­tion, so we are focus­ing on improv­ing our qual­ity.”

We are a small coun­try, but a very diverse one,” she con­cluded.

Magna Olea won a Sil­ver Award for a medium-inten­sity blend. We feel that we’re con­sis­tently pro­duc­ing excel­lence, reward­ing the trust of all our cus­tomers and part­ners,” owner Jerón­imo Abreu e Lima said after receiv­ing news of his award.

Abreu e Lima said every year comes with a new set of chal­lenges for small pro­duc­ers. In 2019, though, the main dif­fi­culty was the weather.

Given our fam­ily scale, each har­vest is the most chal­leng­ing moment of the year,” he said. 2019 was another year of unusual weather that has con­di­tioned the pro­duc­tion, rhythm and tim­ing of the har­vest.”

Bare Foods LLC won a Gold Award for its Bare Supe­rior brand, a robust blend.

It is a recog­ni­tion that we are going in the right direc­tion and gives us and our con­sumers the assur­ance that our olive oils are of Supe­rior’ qual­ity,” owner Rui Abecas­sis said about the award. It also shows that Por­tu­gal can pro­duce extra­or­di­nary olive oils.”


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