Business

It’s a Great Time to Find High-Quality Olive Oils

At the world's most prestigious olive oil competition, there were more entries -- and more winners -- than ever before, spelling good news for fans of high-quality extra virgin olive oils.

Olive Oil Times reporter Hannah Howard interviews Alex Buli who had just accepted a Gold Award at the 2017 New York International Olive Oil Competition for his family's 'Buli' Italian blend.
May. 4, 2017
By Hannah Howard
Olive Oil Times reporter Hannah Howard interviews Alex Buli who had just accepted a Gold Award at the 2017 New York International Olive Oil Competition for his family's 'Buli' Italian blend.

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At the New York International Olive Oil Competition (NYIOOC) last week, 200 pro­duc­ers, retail­ers, dis­trib­u­tors, chefs and jour­nal­ists gath­ered in New York City to taste hun­dreds of award-win­ning extra-virgin olive oils and cel­e­brate the year’s best olive oils and the people who make them.



 



Producers cheered as they col­lected their hard-won tro­phies, and one thing became espe­cially clear during the evening: there are more high-qual­ity olive oil than ever before.
This is the begin­ning of the sea change we have been wait­ing for. There are now more top qual­ity olive oils from more places than ever before.- Curtis Cord, NYIOOC President

At the event, which one attendee called “olive oil’s Grammy Awards,” 463 oils were named the world’s best by a panel of expert judges from around the world, 149 more than last year.

The over­all suc­cess rate rose sharply from 38 per­cent last year to 51 per­cent this year, and there were more first-time con­tes­tants than ever before. Curtis Cord, founder of the NYIOOC and the pub­lisher of Olive Oil Times said, “This is the begin­ning of the sea change we have been wait­ing for. Our judg­ing panel’s metic­u­lous analy­sis has exposed a clear upward trend in qual­ity.”
See more: The World’s Best Olive Oils for 2017
This suc­cess comes at the price of intense dis­ci­pline and exact­ing effort. “It’s a whole lot of hard work and a lot of effort to make some­thing that tastes as good as really good extra-virgin tastes,” says Alex Buli, whose Buli olive oil was pre­sented with a Gold Award. Buli is an aro­matic blend of Frantoio, Leccino, Pendolino and Moraiolo olives. “Like with any agri­cul­tural prod­uct, you’re always at the mercy of fac­tors that are out­side your con­trol, whether it’s the weather or pests,” Buli added.

Buli grew up in New York — he didn’t fall in love with olive oil until later in life. “It’s my father who made this happen,” he explained. “My grand­mother, his mother, is from Tuscany. We got our farm about 30 kilo­me­ters east of Siena about ten years ago. It already had about 300 olive trees.” The grove’s loca­tion atop a hill meant a won­der­ful breeze. Many neigh­bor­ing farms had a tough har­vest this year because of the inva­sive olive fruit fly, but the Buli’s trees were spared. “We’re very for­tu­nate,” said Buli.

Making extra-virgin olive oil is not for the faint of heart. “Anyone who has ever vis­ited an olive grove or wit­nessed the pro­duc­tion of high-qual­ity olive oil knows the painstak­ing work, the every­day chal­lenges, and the count­less deci­sions that go into making this prod­uct,” Cord told the crowd at the NYIOOC press con­fer­ence.

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Rose Malindretos, Marketing & E‑Commerce Director, O&CO. USA, Inc.

“You’ll need the per­fect soil and cul­ti­vars, ones that thrive in your micro­cli­mate, the trees will take years before they bear fruit…you’ll need some rain but not too much, you’ll need to har­vest olives at just the right time.” From heat waves to pests to milling to equip­ment to bot­tling, there are count­less details and obsta­cles on the way to cre­at­ing a won­der­ful olive oil. The work is demand­ing and relent­less.
See more: Buy This Year’s Award-Winning Oils
910 pro­duc­ers — more than ever before — sub­mit­ted oils to the NYIOOC, despite a dif­fi­cult har­vest season that resulted in a 30-per­cent drop in global pro­duc­tion. Olive oils from 20 coun­tries received awards, up from last year’s 15, includ­ing pow­er­houses like Italy, Spain and Greece, and coun­tries includ­ing Slovenia, South Africa, Croatia, Uruguay, Morocco, Brazil, and China.

“There are now more top-qual­ity olive oils from more places than at any other time,” Cord announced. “The data from four days of tast­ings by the world’s most expe­ri­enced panel of sen­sory pan­elists over­whelm­ing proves that efforts to make great olive oil around the world are paying off. Producers in every region have answered our call and lifted their game.”

Lucia Gamez won the Best in Class Award for her Dehesa de la Sabina Spanish Picual

As cus­tomers learn more, they appre­ci­ate and demeaned higher qual­ity olive oil. Standards are rising, and pro­duc­ers are rising to the chal­lenge. “It’s an honor to give olive oil the pres­tige it deserves,” said Rose Malindretos.

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Malindretos rep­re­sents Olivier & Co, a French brand that works directly with pro­duc­ers to source olive oils from all over the Mediterranean. This year, their brands took home a Gold Award with their Monva — a robust Picual from the Sierra Magina nat­ural reserve in Spain, and a Silver for its Azienda Agricola Mascio blend (Last year their Il Fornacino Tuscan oil received a Gold Award.)

“As a brand, we’ve been in the US since 2000, and we’re one of the first to really give olive oil the trace­abil­ity it deserves. Olive oil has been around for thou­sands of years and it’s finally get­ting the respect and cred­i­bil­ity it deserves,” Malindretos said.

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Buli’s oil was among the first-time sub­mis­sions, and he was excited by the good news and the com­radery at the NYIOOC.

“It’s an honor to be in the com­pany of so many great pro­duc­ers who share the same pas­sion,” Buli said. Perhaps we have even more incred­i­ble oils and award-win­ning pro­duc­ers to look for­ward to next year.