Fairs, Competitions

Record Wins for Slovenian Producers in New York

Slovenian producers won three Golds and three Silvers to reach the highest number of awards for this small country at NYIOOC yet.

The Morgan family harvesting olives on their family farm
May. 22, 2019
By Isabel Putinja
The Morgan family harvesting olives on their family farm

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The num­ber of Sloven­ian olive oil pro­duc­ers send­ing entries to the New York Inter­na­tional Olive Oil Com­pe­ti­tion (NYIOOC) has been slowly increas­ing with each pass­ing year.

NYIOOC 2019 saw eight oils from this small coun­try par­tic­i­pat­ing in the com­pe­ti­tion and six rec­og­nized, with three Gold and three Sil­ver Awards. This is the high­est num­ber awarded to Sloven­ian pro­duc­ers so far and one more than the five they took home at NYIOOC 2017.

We’re very excited and so proud that our oil is among the best olive oils.- Krist­jan Jere­bica

Shar­ing bor­ders with Italy, Aus­tria and Croa­tia (and a sliver with Hun­gary to the east), Slove­nia is both a Mediter­ranean and Alpine coun­try. It is also in the north­ern-most region of the Mediter­ranean where olives are cul­ti­vated.

This includes an area bor­der­ing Italy in west­ern Slove­nia and the hills of Istria, a penin­sula in the Adri­atic Sea. Grow­ing here are Ital­ian cul­ti­vars includ­ing Lec­cino, Mau­rino, Fran­toio and Pen­dolino as well as vari­eties native to Istria, includ­ing Istrska Bel­ica, Buga and Črnica.

See more: The Best Olive Oils from Slove­nia

Slove­nia has a very mod­est annual pro­duc­tion at approx­i­mately 400 tons, but it makes up for this with the high qual­ity of its oil.


Extra vir­gin olive oil from Slove­nia has been rec­og­nized for its supe­rior qual­ity since 2007 when it was granted a Pro­tected Des­ig­na­tion of Ori­gin (PDO) at the Euro­pean Union level.

Ear­lier this year, a multi-coun­try PDO for olive oil pro­duced in both the Sloven­ian and Croa­t­ian parts of the Istrian penin­sula under the appel­la­tion Istra” was reg­is­tered.

The NYIOOC has seen entries from Slove­nia only for the past four years. Two of this year’s win­ners have won awards for the third year run­ning.

The Mor­gan fam­ily has won Gold in the past three edi­tions of NYIOOC for its Cuvee, an organic robust blend.

Cuvee has won a Gold Award at the NYIOOC for three consecutive years.

We have par­tic­i­pated for the last three years and as a result of our good work we were rewarded with Gold each year,” Marko Opašić, of Olje Mor­gan, told Olive Oil Times. It’s always a good feel­ing when you are awarded, we were very happy.”

Espe­cially win­ning at a big com­pe­ti­tion, like the NYIOOC, where pro­duc­ers from all over the world are par­tic­i­pat­ing and the com­pe­ti­tion is strong,” he added. It’s impor­tant for us because it shows that we’re on the right path to pro­duc­ing the high­est qual­ity organic olive oil deserv­ing of Gold. Also, win­ning an award from NYIOOC helps us to pro­mote Sloven­ian olive oil world­wide.”

The major­ity of the Mor­gan fam­i­ly’s groves are planted with the native Istrska bel­ica but cul­ti­vars such as Lec­cino, Mau­rino, Moraiolo and Rosci­ola also grow here in the north­ern tip of Istria. That fact that their oil is pro­duced organ­i­cally is a mat­ter of pride.

Our oil is made with heart,” he said. It’s organic, it has the right bal­ance of bit­ter­ness and spici­ness and is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of our indige­nous vari­eties. As we are not a giant pro­ducer we can focus on qual­ity. We mon­i­tor our trees daily at all stages of growth until the olives reach the opti­mal matu­rity to pro­duce the best olive oil.”

Another Gold went to the Bučinel fam­ily for their name­sake Bučinel, a medium intense oil made from Briška drob­nica, an indige­nous cul­ti­var from the region of Brda, tucked in between the Alps and the Adri­atic Sea in west­ern Slove­nia.

The Bučinel fam­ily has already col­lected a slew of national and inter­na­tional awards and their high-qual­ity oil is on the tables of restau­rants across Europe and North Amer­ica.

This was our first time par­tic­i­pat­ing in NYIOOC,” Aleš Bučinel said. We were pleas­antly sur­prised. I think that a Gold Award from a com­pe­ti­tion like NYIOOC means that we are on the right path to suc­cess and that we should carry on doing what we love most: pro­duc­ing extra vir­gin olive oil and shar­ing it with those who are lucky enough to taste it.”

On the Bučinel farm, in the vil­lage of Gradno, grow not only olive groves but also fruit orchards and vine­yards.

Bučinel’s olive oil are used in restaurants throughout Europe and North America.

Bučinel explained why the cul­ti­var native to his region is unique: Briška drob­nica is a very unique indige­nous cul­ti­var from the Goriška Brda region of Slove­nia. The result is a very har­mo­nious oil, of medium inten­sity, with pleas­ant fruiti­ness and medium bit­ter­ness and spici­ness. Its spe­cial har­mo­nious taste comes from the fact that trees strug­gle to sur­vive here in the north­ern-most olive grow­ing region.”

Hail­ing from the same region is the Sirk fam­ily who won Sil­ver at NYIOOC 2019 for their Bel­ica, a medium intense olive oil made of Istrska bel­ica. The Sirk fam­ily has been pro­duc­ing wine and grow­ing fruit for three gen­er­a­tions, with the youngest gen­er­a­tion, more recently branch­ing out to olive oil pro­duc­tion, with great results.

This is our first time par­tic­i­pat­ing in NYIOOC,” Ivan Sirk said. We were very sat­is­fied that our oil won a very well-known award. It con­firms that our work is done well and effi­ciently. It also con­firms that our olive oil is one of great qual­ity.”

The third Sil­ver awarded to Sloven­ian pro­duc­ers went to the Jere­bica fam­ily, and their organic Jere­bica brand, a blend of Istrska bel­ica, Lec­cino, Lec­cione and Pen­dolino olives.

The fam­i­ly’s olive farm is in Nova Vas, perched at almost 985 feet above sea level and close to the bor­der with Croa­tia. Grow­ing here, just nine miles from the sea, are groves of 200-year old olive trees as well as younger addi­tions.

In 2014, we won a Best in Class Award in the robust cat­e­gory for our blend,” Krist­jan Jere­bica said. This year we decided to again to test our oil at NYIOOC, and we won a Sil­ver Award in the medium cat­e­gory.”

We’re very excited and so proud that our oil is among the best olive oils,” he added. We pro­duce only organic olives and extra vir­gin olive oil. Win­ning an award is very impor­tant to us because it con­firms that our hard work was not wasted.”

Another multi-time win­ner at NYIOOC is Miha Jakovčič, who took a Sil­ver for his Giu­liana blend this year, and Golds in 2017 and 2018.

After two Gold Awards, this year’s Sil­ver Award is def­i­nitely not less impor­tant,” Miha Jakovčič said of the fam­i­ly’s win. Like every year, we stayed up late wait­ing to see the live stream of the awards pre­sen­ta­tion from New York.”

I think it was around 3 am when my wife and I shouted a vic­tory scream after see­ing Sil­ver next to our brand name,” he added. We are very proud pro­duc­ers of one of the world’s best olive oils – to receive a Sil­ver or Gold Award in a com­pe­ti­tion like NYIOOC, the biggest olive oil com­pe­ti­tion in the world is a great recog­ni­tion of our good work.”

This is another fam­ily busi­ness with a long tra­di­tion of grow­ing olives in their hilly groves over­look­ing the Adri­atic Sea. Jakovčič and his fam­ily fol­low the exact­ing and tedious process required to pro­duce a high-qual­ity oil by hand-har­vest­ing and trans­port­ing the olives to the mill within hours of being picked.

We are a rel­a­tively small pro­ducer or bet­ter, a bou­tique pro­ducer,” he said by way of intro­duc­tion to the fam­i­ly’s approach to pro­duc­ing olive oil. We deal with each of our trees indi­vid­u­ally: we can say that we lis­ten’ to our trees and give them what they need at the right moment.”

We nur­ture them like they are our chil­dren,” he added. The result is a fresh oil with a great smell and fla­vor, which leaves a unique and sen­sa­tional after­taste in your mouth.”

I’m very pleased to see that every year more olive oil pro­duc­ers from Slove­nia com­pete in NYIOOC,” Jakovčič con­tin­ued, mak­ing note of this year’s record num­ber of entries. Know­ing that Slove­nia will be a Euro­pean Culi­nary Des­ti­na­tion 2021’, it’s impor­tant for olive oil pro­duc­ers in Slove­nia to show the world that we pro­duce pre­mium extra vir­gin olive oil. Although we are not an impor­tant player in the indus­try regard­ing quan­tity, I can proudly say that the qual­ity of Sloven­ian olive oils was always very high.”

To back up this fact, he shares a bit of ancient his­tory: An inter­est­ing his­tor­i­cal fact, which many peo­ple don’t know, comes from the old­est Roman cook­book Api­cius” writ­ten in the first cen­tury AD. The author described the pro­ce­dure of doc­tor­ing cheap, smelly oil from Beat­ica with minced herbs and roots, to make it smell and taste like the prized oil from Istria.”

Know­ing this and details from a few other his­tor­i­cal records, we can say that the high­est qual­ity olive oil has been pro­duced in our region for thou­sands of years. All the inter­na­tional awards that Sloven­ian olive oil pro­duc­ers received in the last 10 years just con­firm this fact.”

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