The eighth edition of the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition culminated in the week-long unveiling of 584 winning brands, all of which were entered into the Official Index of the World’s Best Olive Oils.
The results of the world’s largest and most prestigious olive oil quality contest once again confirmed the prominent place of Southern Italian producers among the best in the world.
We are so happy that the Biancolla trees, planted only five years ago, gave us such fragrant oil in their first year of production.
Passion and a strong bond with the land, coupled with innovation, were widely attributed by the producers who succeeded.
“It’s wonderful news,” Luca Mennella said, after learning that Evo Nostrum earned a Gold Award at the NYIOOC. “It is a nice coincidence that I received my first important prize from New York, which was also the destination of my first major trip at the age of 19.”See more: The Best Italian Olive Oils
The farmer has been traveling extensively for years, due to his work in the tourism and travel industry, and during a journey to Senegal, met his future wife, Anna Ascione.
They continued to travel together, before finally settling in the countryside of Serre, in the province of Salerno, where they started a farm and put the experience gained traveling around the world to good use.
“La Nuova Fattoria Mennella is the first agricultural tourist village for children,” Mennalla said. Here, on the hills at the foot of the Alburni Mountains, the fruits of 3,500 Leccino, Frantoio, and the autochthonous Rotondella plants have been masterfully blended to create a premium extra virgin olive oil.
“We have a plan to increase our olive groves,” he said. “They are managed in a completely sustainable way, and so is the entire farm and our mill, powered by a system of recovery and reuse of all the resources from rainwater to the mill wastes.”
“Nestled close to a huge wooded area without industrial pollution, our land is a safe environment both for our olive trees and kids,” he added.
“We are very pleased to receive these further recognitions of our quality,” the farmer from Cerignola, in the province of Foggia, said. “Our products originate from the land surrounding an ancient masseria, which stands on a hill in the plain area of the Tavoliere delle Puglie.”
The centuries-old fortified farmhouse looks out over a 200-hectare (494-acre) farm, of which 23 hectares (57 acres) are dedicated to the cultivation of Coratina, Leccino and Pendolino olives, flanked by varieties used to produce table olives, such as Bella di Spagna, Bella di Cerignola and Ascolana.
“We planted our olive grove in 1986 and started to sell the fruits to the millers,” Simeone said. “Then, when I took the reins of the company, in 2007, I decided to invest in a quality project. I attended a tasting course, and devoted our farm to the making of excellent extra virgin olive oil, obtained thanks to the collaboration of a mill with high technological standards.”
Since then, the Mercaldi-Simeone family, with respect for the history of the masseria and the unspoiled environment which hosts them, promote responsible and sustainable management of crops and resources.
In Ruvo di Puglia, north of Bari, Olio Mazzone earned a Gold Award thanks to the work of Giuseppe Campanale and his father Giacomo, who has extensive experience working as a miller.
“It was the first time that we participated in the NYIOOC,” he said. “This award has given us an even bigger satisfaction as a result.”
The Campanale farm is located on a hilly area, adjacent to the Alta Murgia National Park, where 200 Coratina trees are grown in a calcareous, stony soil.
“In addition to our fruits, we use the best ones harvested by local producers who pursue our same high-quality standards and who are often linked to our mill since the beginning of its history,” said Campanale, who runs the facility founded in the 1920s by his great-grandfather, Tommaso Mazzone.
In their historic mill, Campanale has always been committed to providing an impeccable service to small growers, with whom they have built up a trustful relationship.
“We are developing a project to improve the machinery since we have a continuous cycle system still equipped with granite millstones,” Campanale said. “They give great results with our generous Coratina, but we will soon add a latest-generation crusher which allows us to work with even greener olives. This is because we always strive for the highest quality.”
San Pietro Vernotico, in the province of Brindisi, welcomed two Gold Awards, one for the monovarietal Cantasole Biancolilla, and one for the blend of Leccino and Picholine, Cantasole, the latter of which enjoyed a series of success at the NYIOOC over the last five years.
“It is incredible every time,” Arianna De Marco told Olive Oil Times. “This is the highlight of our year.”
In the heart of Salento, two miles from the sea, her family company manages 60,000 plants of Leccino, Picholine, Biancolilla, Coratina and Cima di Melfi, as well as Cellina di Nardò and Ogliarola Santina, two typical varieties of this region, spread over a flat area of 300 hectares (740 acres).
“Eighty percent of our olive trees are a century-old, yet the youngest ones have yielded the award-winning oils,” De Marco said. “We are so happy that the Biancolla trees, planted only five years ago, gave us such fragrant oil in their first year of production.”
“It was a thrill to taste it, especially at the end of a season characterized by summer drought that initially seemed to upset the flavor of our oils; and still in the end we managed to obtain balanced high-quality products,” she added.
In Sicily, Titone won its second consecutive Gold Award for an organic blend.
“We are so pleased about this recognition,” said Antonella Titone, after hearing the news of the win, from her farm in the province of Trapani. “We got this result thanks to a proper blending all our varieties, Nocellara del Belice, Cerasuola and a small percentage of Coratina and Biancolilla.”
Harvested from the end of September until no later than the third week of October and stored in a temperature-controlled facility, olives were crushed in a few hours.
“My grandfather, who was a pharmacist, created the farm, initially producing grapes for the Marsala wine, and from that period I remember those beautiful, huge oak barrels,” she said. “Then, in the 1980s the company was converted from a vineyard into organic olive grove, years before the regulation on organic farming entered into force, and we were among the first to abandon the conventional system in favor of more natural and sustainable farming.”
Still, with the same attention to the environment and commitment to quality, they manage an olive grove of 5,000 plants of different ages, some of which are centuries-old, located on the flat land between Marsala and Trapani.
“Our olive groves lie on the coast,” Titone said. “From the terrace of our farmhouse I see the Egadi Islands and I can breathe the scent of the sea.”