Europe

Winning NYIOOC a 'Matter of Pride' for French Producers

French brands earned a record-high eight awards at the 2020 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition, including six Golds and two Silvers.

Photo courtesy of Domaine Gerbaud.
May. 20, 2020
By Pablo Esparza
Photo courtesy of Domaine Gerbaud.

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We were jump­ing for joy. We knew we had a very good oil this year, but this is a won­der­ful reward,” Louisa Sher­man, pro­ducer of Domaine Ger­baud, told Olive Oil Times.

Domaine Gerbaud’s blend of local Provençal vari­eties, Aglan­dau, Salo­nenque and Grossane, earned a Gold award at this year’s NYIOOC World Olive Oil Com­pe­ti­tion.

Our inter­est in the NYIOOC was not really a com­mer­cial one. It was kind of a mat­ter of pride. We are very pas­sion­ate about what we do.- Enzo Berbeche, gen­eral man­ager of Château d’Estoublon

Sherman’s was among the eight awards picked up by French pro­duc­ers – six Gold and two Sil­ver – and served as a con­fir­ma­tion of the high qual­ity of French olive oils on the inter­na­tional stage.

As a Mediter­ranean coun­try, olive oil is a tra­di­tional prod­uct in most of France. But, unlike other pro­duc­ing coun­tries, such as Spain, Italy or Greece, the cli­mate only allows olive trees to grow in the south of the coun­try.

See more: The Best French Olive Oils

This year was the first time Domaine de Ger­baud – a small estate at the foothills of the Luberon Moun­tains in Provence – com­peted at the NYIOOC, and their suc­cess was received as a con­fir­ma­tion that their efforts paid off.

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This gives us a lot of con­fi­dence in the ter­roir and in the vari­eties, which can pro­duce very good oil. French vari­eties are not as well-known as Span­ish, Ital­ian or Greek ones. And that’s one of the main chal­lenges we face,” Sher­man said from her house in locked-down Lon­don.

I’m impressed about this com­pe­ti­tion. They have a bril­liant web­site and, from the organization’s side, they do a tremen­dous amount of effort to get out infor­ma­tion about the award-win­ning pro­duc­ers,” she added.

All the award win­ning French pro­duc­ers at the NYIOOC came from three Pro­tected Des­ig­na­tions of Ori­gin areas – or Appel­la­tion d’Origine Pro­tegée (AOPs) – in the region of Provence: Haute Provence, Aix en Provence and Val­lée des Baux.

Domaine Sal­va­tor is a 10,000-olive-tree estate at Les Mées, a vil­lage sit­u­ated at an alti­tude of 1,415 feet in the Haute-Provence. Their Bouteil­lan mono­va­ri­etal won a Gold Award at the NYIOOC.

This is a very impor­tant con­test for us because we only par­tic­i­pate in two inter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tions, one in Paris and the New York one,” Frédéric Pina­tel, pro­ducer of Domaine Sal­va­tor, told Olive Oil Times.

Pina­tel and his cousin are the fifth gen­er­a­tion of olive oil pro­duc­ers in the fam­ily and are cur­rently in charge of the estate.

Last year we won a Sil­ver Award and we asked our­selves so many ques­tions. What can we do to improve our oil? What could we change? We tried to reset the things that we thought were neg­a­tively affect­ing our oil. We did a list and tried to improve every item of it. Maybe that effort has worked,” Pina­tel said.

Nei­ther wind­storms nor the abun­dance of rain dur­ing the har­vest sea­son stopped Domaine Ger­baud win­ning Gold this year. 

A sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion faced Château d’Estoublon, a pro­ducer at the Val­lée des Baux. While they did not win any award in 2019, in 2020, they received three Gold Awards and one Sil­ver Award.

We are extremely happy. It’s been a bit weird as, due to the coro­n­avirus, it has not been pos­si­ble for the whole team to cel­e­brate the award together,” Enzo Berbeche, gen­eral man­ager of Château d’Estoublon, told Olive Oil Times.

We were really mad for not win­ning in 2019, so, dur­ing one year, we have tried to improve some aspects of our work,” he con­tin­ued. We pro­duce five cul­ti­vars (Picholine, Grossane, Bouteil­lon, Salo­nenque and Bberuguette) and we did the best blend that we can pos­si­bly do. Also, we reduced, to max­i­mum extent, the time between har­vest­ing the olives and press­ing them, so we are sure that the fruits are fresh.”

Our inter­est in the NYIOOC was not really a com­mer­cial one. It was kind of a mat­ter of pride,” Berbeche added. We are very pas­sion­ate about what we do. We work seven days a week, and not receiv­ing an award for your pas­sion is hard. Maybe we are a bit com­pet­i­tive.”

In the 2019/20 crop year, France pro­duced 5.9 tons of olive oil, a slightly higher amount than the 5.5 tons in 2018/19, accord­ing to the Inter­na­tional Olive Oil Coun­cil.

Although far from the fig­ures of its neigh­bors in terms of pro­duc­tion, France is cur­rently the sixth-largest pro­ducer of olive oil in Europe, after Spain, Italy, Greece, Por­tu­gal and Cyprus. And the country’s pro­duc­ers are mak­ing an effort to have a con­stant pres­ence at inter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tions.

I would say that French olive oil is under­rated,” Sher­man said. Italy, Spain, Greece have done such good work dis­sem­i­nat­ing their mes­sage. In France, it’s just a small amount of pro­duc­tion that gets to the inter­na­tional mar­kets. Maybe it’s partly because of that.”

Pina­tel also remarked that the high costs of pro­duc­tion are one of the main chal­lenges for olive oil pro­duc­ers in France, a coun­try where small pro­duc­ers pre­dom­i­nate over large estates.

French olive oil sec­tor has been chang­ing one for the last 10 to 20 years,” he said. Cur­rently, it is very chal­leng­ing. Qual­ity has improved a lot in many coun­tries and my per­sonal vision is that, in France, if you don’t have a really good prod­uct, it won’t be sold.”

Com­pet­i­tive­ness is push­ing every­one up,” Berbeche agreed. You have to con­stantly improve and reassess things.”


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