Saturday, May 10, 2014

IOC Mario Solinas Award an Iberian Feast

The International Olive Council Mario Solinas Quality Award is undoubtedly the most rigorous of all the world’s extra virgin olive oil competitions. The samples entered are monitored from the producer’s tank, fully tested to international trade standard at accredited laboratories and the award labeling of the winning olive oils is controlled.

However, in 2014 the Prize winners and finalists from the 138 entries were all from Spain and Portugal, with the exception of two finalists in the mild fruitiness class coming from Tunisia. Only two entries came from the world’s second largest producing country, Italy, and 6 from Greece, the third largest producer.

The apparent global shift to more intense extra virgin olive oils with their stronger flavours is reinforced in the competition by the lack of a third prize winner for the Ripe Fruitiness Class and only 3 out of a possible 6 finalists being selected for this class and 5 out of a possible 6 for the Mild Fruitiness Class.

The IOC does not publish the list of its accredited tasting panels which judge the entries but it would be a fair bet that tasters from Spain and Portugal dominate and the preference for more intense/robust oils follows.

The IOC has the opportunity to establish a truly international extra virgin olive oil quality award with a guarantee to customers that the oils that win are the oils they buy when the award stickers are on the label.

To do this the Council must establish an entry process and award judging panel that is truly international, representing the major growing regions and recognising the different intensities of extra virgin olive oil which compliment the cuisine of different countries.

If the IOC does not make this transition with the Mario Solinas Quality Award it will continue to be a much revered prize on the Iberian Peninsula and mostly ignored elsewhere.