Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Greece Needs More Variety in Extra Virgin Offering

There is an opportunity for Greek extra virgin olive oil producers to diversify the range of Greek oils on offer. Most of the oils from the region come from the koreneiki variety, with a low percentage of other olive varieties mixed in. This results in a limited range of tastes, differentiation coming from harvest timing, altitude and agronomic but not varietal differences.

In a recent visit to Greece the writer tasted some oils ‘off the line’ from some varieties other than koreneiki. The extra virgin olive oils had different and equally attractive taste profiles as the koreneiki oils.

There are some difficulties in identifying the different varieties in old groves where they are intermingled. However, it may be worth the effort if the farmers were given an incentive to harvest the trees separately to produce a boutique olive oil which commands a premium price.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Los Angeles EVOO Awards Give Less Gold than New York

The New York International Olive Oil Competition results are launched with the glitz and glamour of a premiere of a Broadway musical. The results of the Los Angeles Extra Virgin Olive Oil Awards are posted quietly on the internet.

That is not the only difference in style, of the 57 extra virgin olive oils entered in both shows, 51% received the same medal, 44% (42% in 2013) received a higher medal award at the New York Competition and only 5% received a higher medal at the LA Show.

The LA Show was less intense too, with 103 extra virgin olive oils being awarded gold medals, in sharp contrast to New York, 29% (NY 58%) were deemed robust, 53% (NY38%) medium and 18% (NY 4%) delicate.

LA attracted 561 entries, 90 less than the 651 at New York. Gold went to 20% in LA, silver to 20%, bronze to 14% and 46% did not receive an award.

For the record, the cost of entering the LA Competition is $100 per entry and the New York competition costs $200 per entry up to December 31 and $250 thereafter.

Obviously all that extra gold given out in New York is expensive!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Differentiation of Extra Virgin Olive Oils Essential

The push for longer shelf-life and higher polyphenol levels by quality certifying organisations with their associated standards could be threatening more delicate tasting extra virgin olive oils.

It is notable that in the extra virgin olive oils tasted at recent Savantes programmes there have been fewer oils exhibiting the riper fruit flavours of later harvested olives.

These olive oils are ‘sweeter’ and exhibit more tropical fruit flavours than their robust counterparts which tend to green vegetal peppery flavours. They have a particular culinary use in fish cuisine, pastries, baking and desserts.

While the more robust oils with longer shelf-life – two years and over – may suit the marketers better, producers must be careful that they are not producing a taste in olive oil which many consumers and cuisines don’t like. There is a danger of following the path the engineers of the modified tomatoes took to give the fruit longer shelf-life, sending consumers looking for a tomato which tasted like a tomato.

It is important that the offering of flavours of extra virgin olive oil to the consumers remains diverse and pleases a range of palates.

Delicate Olive Oils Out of Flavour at NYIOOC 2014

The results of the New York International Olive Oil competition are out and there is much justified celebration among the winners.

Of the 651 entries, 180 (28%) received gold medals and 73 (11%) received silver medals. The balance, 398 oils (61%) were not considered by the judges to be worthy of medals in this competition

The worrying statistic coming from this is that the judges showed a strong bias towards awarding medals to robust oils and virtually ignored delicate oils. The number of oils classified delicate which entered the competition is unknown. What is known is that just 8 (4%) of the gold medals awarded went to delicate oils, 68 (38%) to medium oils and 104 (58%) to robust oils.

It would be interesting to see if this preference for stronger flavours would be similar if the same extra virgin olive oils were judged by a knowledgeable consumer panel rather than a panel of professional olive oil tasters.