Fairs, Competitions

Record Number of Awards for Spanish Producers at NYIOOC

Spanish producers enjoyed a record-breaking night at this year's NYIOOC, enjoying their highest ever success rate and bringing home more Gold Awards than ever before.

Henri Alegria accepted the Gold Award for Henri Mor
May. 14, 2019
By Pablo Esparza
Henri Alegria accepted the Gold Award for Henri Mor

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The 2019 edi­tion of the New York International Olive Oil Competition was a good one for Spain, both in terms of entries and in terms of awards.

With 154 entries, three up from last year, Spain had the second most con­tenders in New York, just after Italy, which had 223, and well ahead of Greece, 109, and the United States, with 96.

We’ve been making top qual­ity olive oils for 20 years. It’s a lot of time and effort and we are very proud of this recog­ni­tion which places us at the level of those who appre­ci­ate qual­ity.- Soraya Aguilar, co-founder of Millpress Imports

This strong pres­ence of Spanish olive oil pro­duc­ers was also reflected in the awards granted by the 18 mem­bers of the jury.

Four Best in Class, 84 Gold and 25 Silver awards trav­elled to the south­west­ern European coun­try. This means that 74 per­cent of the Spanish pro­duc­ers taking part at the NYIOOC earned an award, one of the high­est suc­cess rates among the top pro­duc­ing coun­tries and 11 points higher than in 2018.

See more: NYIOOC 2019 Results

Oro Bailén’s qual­ity has been acknowl­edged at the NYIOOC in the last four edi­tions.

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This year, the olive oil pro­duced by the Gálvez González family in Bailén, at the heart of Jaén province, the main pro­duc­tion region in Spain, deserved a Best in Class for its medium Picual, a Gold award for its Arbequina and Hojiblanca and a Silver award for its Frantoio.

“We’ve stopped par­tic­i­pat­ing in many com­pe­ti­tions, but we keep coming to New York because, on top of the per­sonal sat­is­fac­tion that comes with the awards, this con­test is much valued by our clients in the U.S. and Canada,” Edurne Rubio, com­mer­cial direc­tor of Oro Bailén, told Olive Oil Times.

Her opin­ion is shared by Borja García, com­mer­cial direc­tor of Finca La Torre, a well-known qual­ity brand from Antequera, in the south­ern Andalusian province of Málaga, which was also awarded in the three pre­vi­ous edi­tions of the NYIOOC.

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This year, its organic Picudo and Hojiblanca won a Gold award while its Cornicabra and Arbequina took one Silver award each.

“The NYIOOC is a key ref­er­ence in the U.S. I guess it’s the most impor­tant con­test on the other side of the Atlantic both because of the rep­u­ta­tion of the jury and the pro­mo­tion of the event. It is very impor­tant for us,” he told Olive Oil Times.

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When asked about the rea­sons behind Finca La Torre’s sus­tained suc­cess, García points to the “hard and metic­u­lous work” of Víctor Pérez, the man­ager of the estate.

“He never fails. Since he started pro­duc­ing olive oil seven years ago, he’s been up there and that is invalu­able. We’ve had prob­lems with the har­vest as anyone does. This year we were hit by floods, but the next day we were har­vest­ing,” García said.

Tim Balshi and his wife, Soraya Aguilar, live in Pennsylvania, but they are part of the family-run com­pany, Almazara Andrés Aguilar, whose Mill Press olive oil brand won three Gold and two Silver awards in New York.

“We’re very excited and very happy. We see the NYIOOC as a top con­test in the world and what they are doing for the industry’s qual­ity is excep­tional,” Balshi, qual­ity direc­tor and co-founder of Millpress Imports, told Olive Oil Times.

“We’ve been making top qual­ity olive oils for 20 years. It’s a lot of time and effort and we are very proud of this recog­ni­tion which places us at the level of those who appre­ci­ate qual­ity. And this also moti­vates us to work harder for future har­vests,” Aguilar, exports direc­tor of the com­pany, added.

Mill Press olive oil mill is sit­u­ated in Linares, in the province of Jaén, home of around 25 per­cent of the world’s total olive oil pro­duc­tion.

In spite of the remark­able pres­ence of Andalusian pro­duc­ers, the 154 Spanish brands who took part at this year’s NYIOOC draw a map of the huge diver­sity of Spain’s olive oil pro­duc­tion.

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Owned by the Mora family, Palacio de los Olivos is a 518-acre estate in Almagro, in the region of Castilla La Mancha, an area well suited for grow­ing olive trees but out­side of the main Picual pro­duc­ing area of Jaén.

In 2018 and 2017 they received a Gold award for their robust Picual. This year they earned a Best in Class.

“It’s not that easy to win awards. The real­ity is that hun­dreds of olive oil brands get none. So our oil must have some­thing good,” María Martínez Ubago, the head of com­mu­ni­ca­tions at the com­pany, said.

Equally proud of his oil is Henri Alegría, owner of the brand Henri Mor, which won two Gold awards for its medium Arbequina and its organic del­i­cate Arbequina.

“We are extremely pleased. The U.S. is our main market as almost 70 per­cent of our exports go to America, espe­cially to New York,” Alegría told Olive Oil Times.

This Venezuelan-born pro­ducer started his pro­duc­tion just three years ago when he moved back to his grandparent’s vil­lage of Juncosa, in Catalonia, and fell in love with olive trees and olive oil pro­duc­tion.

“This helps a lot because among all the inter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tions, New York’s the one with the strongest pres­ence on the Internet and social media,” he said, when asked for the rea­sons why these awards are impor­tant.

Spain is the world’s lead­ing olive oil pro­ducer. With 1,589,900 tons pro­duced in the 2018/2019 season, the European coun­try largely sur­passes its clos­est com­peti­tors. In the same period, Italy and Greece, the second and third largest pro­duc­ers, pro­duced 265,000 tons and 225,000 tons, respec­tively.

However, despite its strong per­for­mance at the NYIOOC, Spain still sits behind Italy when it comes to the total number of awards.

“I guess the qual­ity of Spanish olive oil is grow­ing every year. There’s a huge evo­lu­tion in the olive groves, but we have to do a better job in terms of com­mu­ni­ca­tion,” Alegría said, as one of the rea­sons.

Rubio, from Oro Bailén, claims that edu­cat­ing con­sumers to value good olive oil will be key in order to improve qual­ity and places a spe­cial role for olive oil con­tests on that task.

“Spain’s pro­duced high volume for years and qual­ity is get­ting better,” she said. “I believe olive oil con­tests can improve the knowl­edge about olive oil and pro­mote qual­ity. At the end of the day, qual­ity olive oil is not more expen­sive because it comes in a nicer bottle but because it’s good and it’s made in a spe­cial way.”