Henri Alegria accepted the Gold Award for Henri Mor

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”



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