The 2014-2015 harvest year will go down in history as one of the worst for olive farms in certain regions hit hard by bad weather and a fruit fly run amok, but even through all of the challenges of what some are calling the Annus Horribilis (the horrible year), a remarkable number of producers have tasted what flows from their mills this season and believe they have managed to craft one the best olive oils in the world.
Organizers for the New York International Olive Oil Competition (NYIOOC), the world’s largest and most prestigious olive oil quality competition, say entries are pouring in at an even faster pace than last year, when a record 651 brands participated. The event will be held April 13-15 at the International Culinary Center in New York.
NYIOOC president Curtis Cord cautioned against downplaying the difficult year: “There are producers, particularly in Italy and Portugal, who have told us their season was a total wash and they will have to wait until next year. At the same time we’re seeing more brands step up to the world stage for the first time to distinguish their products in terms of quality.”
Indeed, with the production shortfall pushing prices for extra virgin olive oil higher and buyers more skeptical than ever about getting their money’s worth, winning an award at the highly-publicized annual event means even more.
“It is the ultimate seal of approval,” said Cord, referring to the Silver, Gold and Best in Class award labels that each year adorn bottles of the winning brands. “Making one of the world’s best olive oils is incredibly difficult. Those who manage to do that deserve immense recognition and the commercial success that goes with it.”
The entries come from dozens of countries and are blind-tasted over four days under strict protocols by a panel of experts from around the world. Last year, olive oils from Spain won the most awards, followed closely by Italian brands.
The results of the competition are broadcast through media channels worldwide and presented on the website bestoliveoils.com, where details of the winners are indexed for chefs, food buyers and discerning consumers in pursuit of the year’s highest-quality extra virgin olive oils.
Olive oil producers and distributors can still register their brand on the competition website.