Talking about extra virgin olive oils is not easy. We are used to look at them in long lists, but making these lists is not a simple task.
One way to do it, is to look up different olive oil brands on the Internet. If we do so, it is likely that we find brands that have declared its oil the best of the world themselves.
We can also find olive oils that have been chosen by some personalities or professionals in the olive oil sector. This recognition might make these products and brands viral. In many occasions, the olive oils that have been promoted by a prestigious taster are then seen as one of the best olive oils.
It is true that in many cases, this prestigious taster decided to promote an olive oil because she/he truly believes that it is a good product. However, this kind of action should not be extrapolated. It is likely that this person has not imagined that her/his review would have such an impact.
There are also several rankings that classify the best olive oil in the world and publish a list every year. They compile the marks of most awarded oils in the most important and well-known competitions.
One of the most reliable rankings is the EVOO World Ranking. This ranking promotes the most awarded olive oil worldwide with the aim of getting the consumers to know the awarded olive oils. This ranking compiles EVOOs that have participated in one of the worldwide awards of the year.
We could go over many other examples, in which many oils would be classified as the best olive oil of the world.
Now that you are aware of the situation, we will start answering some questions related to the best olive oil of the world.
Best olive oil of the world, of which year?
We know that the extra virgin olive oil is a living matter. It is a fruit juice. In this case, the fruit is the olive. Since this fruit comes from the fields, the weather is crucial for the growth of the fruit and for its sensorial profile. A rainy year and a year of drought are not the same and this will be reflected in the olive oil characteristics.
The Extra Virgin Olive Oils, including the high quality oils, need healthy olives in perfect shape. However, the olives are not the same every year. On some occasions, we will not be able to differentiate them, but we will see that they do not behave the same way in the mill or the mix must be different even though we might not have clear criteria to determine these differences. A year with high production is not the same as a year in which the production is low.
With these examples, we want to convey that the quality of an extra virgin olive oil will probably not be the same every year.
What campaign? Which hemisphere?
In the elaboration of extra virgin olive oils, we use the term ¨campaigns¨.
In the North Hemisphere, we find Europe, North America, Central America, and a big part of Asia and Africa, the virgin olive oil campaign starts at the end of November.
However, we also find producing countries that belong to the South Hemisphere, below the Equator line. Countries such as Chile, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Uruguay or Peru. In these countries, the olive starts to be picked in late January and February and it usually finishes by May. We get the first olive oils of the campaign around April or May. This fact makes these oils very different from the ones produced in the North Hemisphere since these ones are early oils that are produced six months earlier.
Once we are aware of this distinction, we should be aware that if we want to talk about the best olive oil of the world, we should have tasted oils from both hemispheres, right?
Another fact that we must take into account is that in order to make sure that we are facing the best olive oil of the world is: which variety is it? Is it green or ripped?
There is a huge variety of olives, around 700 have been identified by the Germoplasm Bank of Andalucía. In fact, it is believed that this figure will increase since there will always be new varieties to classify.
So, if we know that we are talking about a certain variety, do we really think that the best olive oil of the world can be just one even though the varieties are usually very different?
It is true that, in many cases, the early extra virgin olive oils can be very similar. However, there are varieties that behave in very different ways.
If we work with an arbequine olive in an advanced veraison, we will see that they do not have anything in common with a picual or hojiblanca variety in early October.
It is not better nor worse, they are just very different and have a very different organoleptic profile. Both samples can proceed from extraordinary groves, both could come from an excepcional process and have great organoleptic characteristics. In the end, both samples will get the same mark.
Do we dare to classify any of these two samples as the best of the world?
Another matter we can consider are the resources. ¿How many olive oil competitions do you think exist? There are around 75 international competitions. On a national level there are 200. This means that every award will publish a list of the best olive oils of the world.
Since we know there are so many olive oil awards, we should know that brands will not present their oils to all the awards. This means that we will not get just one list with all the same olive oils.
Every brand will take part in a certain competition, according to its business model, its interests and the campaign’s performance.
There are many other similar questions.
We wanted to raise some questions to start a reflection with the reader and to finally, get to decide which is the best olive oil of the world by following a rigorous decision process.
In ESAO, Olive Oil School of Spain, we believe that knowledge should be the basis of opinions and discussions regarding the best extra virgin olive oils.
First, we have to make sure which are the most awarded olive oils of the moment. They are the ones produced at the beginning of the campaign, they are called early olive oils.
This means that the best olive oils should have had their olives collected between late September and late October, depending on the year, variety and geographical location. This applies if we are talking about the North Hemisphere.
As we have mentioned previously, there are many competitions that give an award to the best olive oil of the world. However, the Technical Direction of the Olive Oil School of Spain takes into consideration three.
The awards that we take into consideration in order to offer the ESAO Guide with the best olive oils are:
Food Awards of the Agriculture Ministry of Spain
Organized by the Agriculture Ministry of Spain. Spain is the first producing country of virgin olive oil. It is also the country with the most hectare of olive trees in the world.
The Panel of the Agriculture Ministry of Spain for the Food Awards is very experienced and well-known. The Ministry is an independent institution with solid fundamentals, even though these bases need to be reviewed every year in order ro check if any modifications have been made.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, promotes high quality extra virgin olive oils and enhances its position in the market. Here you can read the bases of the Award ¨Food Spain Best Extra Virgin Olive Oil¨
Prize “Alimentos de España Mejor Aceite de Oliva Virgen Extra - Frutado Verde Amargo”: fruity oils with medium-high intensity that reminds the taster of green olives and/or other fruits and/or green notes balanced with bitter and spicy attributes.
Prize “Alimentos de España Mejor Aceite de Oliva Virgen Extra - Frutado Verde Dulce”: fruity oils of medium-high intensity that remind the taster of green olives and/or other fruits and/or green notes in which the bitter and spicy attributes are not very remarked.
Prize “Alimentos de España Mejor Aceite de Oliva Virgen Extra - Frutado Maduro: fruity oils with a medium-high intensity that reminds the taster of ripped olives and/or other ripped fruits, almond related or not, with bitter and spicy attributes not very remarked.
Premio Especial “Alimentos de España Mejor Aceite de Oliva Virgen Extra” this award is for the olive oil that gets the highest mark on the tasting part and in the physicochemical evaluation in the three established categories.
OILS INCLUDED IN THE COMPETITION
There will be only included the extra virgin olive oils in bulk of the campaign, a established in Reglamento (UE) nº 1308/2013 of the European Parliament and the Committee, of the 17th of December of 2013, by which the organization of the common market of agrarian products.
Companies, entities or natural or legal persons of public or private nature that hold the ownership of the authorized mills that have their social headquarters in Spain.
The submissions period will be of three months from the day after the award announcement is published in the BOE (Official Newsletter of the State).
Stages of the organoleptic evaluation:
- First stage: carried out by the extra virgin olive oil Panel of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.
Second stage: it consists of the final analysis of the samples selected in the first stage. It is carried out by a Panel of experts where members of other State authorized panels can participate in addition to the members of the Panel of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.
Technical report and Panel meeting: the head of the Panel will publish a report with the tests in which the best five olive oils will be compiled and their physicochemical result that will be submitted to the president of the Panel. The finalists will be three oils with the highest mark of every category.
The awards will be given in a ceremony organized by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.
Mario Solinas Awards by the International Olive Council
The International Olive Council, the IOC, is the international institution in charge of any regulation in the area of olive oil with the European Unions as well. It is an organization where independence is crucial and they organize the Mario Solinas Award, an international award that differentiates between north and south hemisphere.
It has been celebrated since 2000-2001, so we can see that this award was founded 20 years ago. Its bases are very accessible since 3000 or 1500 litres stored in a deposit until the Panel resolutions are required.
The international award of extra virgin olive oils by which the International Olive Committee Mario Salinas Quality Award is based on the Decision nº DEC-1/82-IV/00 adopted by the International Olive Council on the 8th of June of 2000.
Its main objective is to select between olive oils from both hemispheres, which are the ones that show the maximum organoleptic characteristics in each of the established categories.
CONTEST CONDITIONS FOR BOTH HEMISPHERES
Individual producers, producers associations and packaging companies well registered will be able to submit their olive oils in the contest.
- Oils accepted in the contest.
Only the extra virgin olive oils of the established campaign of every hemisphere, that meet all the requirements by the Commercial Rule applicable to the olive oil and to the olive marc adopted by the International Olive Council.
The oils submitted to the award must proceed from the current campaign and from a homogeneous batch of at least 3000 litres, stored in a olive container.
Every participant can submit only one extra virgin olive oil. T.30/Doc. nº 21 page 2 2. Participants obligations. Every participant must:2.1 Fill out the full inscription sheet, which is included in Annex 1 and 2.
2.2 Proceed through notary (1): to the collection of representative samples of the olive oil batch submitted to contest, which consists of 5 samples of 500 ml each, in a tinted glass container and two samples of 100 ml, also in a tinted glass container of the same capacity; each collected sample must be sealed with its tap and with a security seal. The sample will be signed and sealed by a notary and will have a tag with an identification code of the participant. The code will be made up of numbers and two letters; the requirements to follow for the samples will be established by the standard ISO 5555: ¨Fats of animal or vegetal origin¨.Sample Collection: the seal of the container of the batch of oil submitted to the contest until the end of it. This written information will be shared to the Executive Secretary or published in the official website of the IOC with the winners list.
2.3. Request a notarial act is where the following indications will be exposed:
Name, participants address and registration number of the business.Place and identification of the container of the batch of oil submitted to the contest: Size of the batch of oil submitted to the contest,
Collecting process, closing and sample identification
Container seal of the batch of oil submitted to contest
2.4 Send one of the two samples of 100 ml to a laboratory recognized by the International Olive Council for the current period with purpose of doing the chemical analysis and issuing the quality analysis certificate that proves that it is an extra virgin olive oil.
2.5. Send one of the 500 ml samples to a Tasting Panel recognized by the International Olive Council in order to have them done an organoleptic organization, according to the current method of the International Olive Council and issues a certificate with the correspondent classification of the oil indicating the value of the mean of the oil intensity of the fruity attribute and whether the fruity attribute is green or ripped.
(2) The list of recognized laboratories and panels for the current period will be established by the Members Councils of the IOC and published after its adoption in the official website of the COI. T.30/Doc. nº 21 page 3.
2.6 Forward to the Executive Secretary of the IOC (C/Príncipe de Vergara, 154. 28002 Madrid. España) the documents and indicated samples, with the following information in the legend:
¨International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Contest Mario Salinas¨
The notarial act of the sample testing and location and sealing of containers.
The certificate of the chemical analysis and the sensorial analysis issued by a laboratory and a olive oil tasting panel recognized by the IOC for the period of matter.
Three of the 500 ml samples, well packed in order to avoid that they break during the shipment.
2.7 Keep the fifth 500 ml sample and the second 100 ml sample. These samples must stay at the disposition of the COI Executive Secretary in case there is damage or misdirection.
The Executive Secretary of the IOC will proceed to give the secret passwords to the submitted olives once they receive them. These passwords will be placed in an opaque auto adhesive tag that covers the whole original identity tag.
The oils must be classified in every of these following groups, according to the mean value of the intensity, the fruity type, attributed by the Panel that issued the sensorial analysis: Value Group of the Fruity Mean.
Green Fruity: set of olfactory sensations characteristic of the olive that remind the taster of green fruits, depending on the variety of the olives, origin of green fruits, healthy and fresh and perceived by direct via and/or retro-olfactory.
Intense fruitiness: m > 6 Medium fruitiness 3 < m < 6 Low fruitiness < 3Ripped fruitiness: set of olfactory sensations characteristic of oils perceived by direct via or retro-olfaction, that remind the taster of ripped fruits, proceeding from green healthy and fresh fruits.
Extra Virgin Olive Oils proceeding from the South Hemisphere:
The IOC reserves the right to make physicochemical analysis as a verification and if needed, to dismiss the olive that does not meet the established parameter in the COI. T.30/Doc. nº 21 page 4 3.2.
The oils submitted are analysed by an International Panel.
The members of the International Panel are chosen by the Executive Secretary among the heads of the Panels recognized by the IOC. The international Panel uses the analysis sheet from Annex 3 and computes the median of the total marks from every member of the Panel. If the Panel agrees that an oil does not reach with its category previously assigned, the Panel could reassign a new category.
The International Panel will select a winner of the Mario Salinas Award to the Quality For each category and will suggest a second and the third position in every category, as well.
In case of tie, the oil with lower free acidity will be selected and if there is still a tie, the oil with lower peroxides index will be selected.
The minimum mark needed to obtain an award will be 70 points for the green fruity light and 60 points for the ripped fruity category and olive oils from the South Hemisphere.
The International Panel reserves the right to otorge a proportional number of awards to the number of submissions in each category. The decision of the Panel will be final and can not be appealed.
The enrollment period and submission of the samples will depend on the campaign. Check current conditions and rules.
- Awards Ceremony.
The Awards to the winner oils will be given by the Executive Director of the International Olive Council and other authorized authorities.
The awards will consist of a medal ( gold, silver and bronze) for the winners of each category and a certification for them and for the finalists of each category.
The winners will only be allowed to mention the award in the containers of the winner's batch of oil, according to the graphic representation of the awards shown in Annex 3. T.30/Doc. nº 21 page 5. The results of the awards will be published in the official website of the International Olive Council.
ESAO Awards. International Olive Oil Competition.
These awards of the Olive Oil School of Spain, ESAO, have been celebrated for 6 consecutive years. This is an international contest, where different categories, countries and cooperatives are taken into account.
The final mark sheet that is used is the same one that the Ministry and the IOC use.
The Panel consists of the independent ESAO panel that meets on a weekly basis. The Panel or Jury tastes the sample following the reception order. This is such an important fact since not all the samples are tasted at the same time by a Panel created just for this specific situation. If this was the case, there would be a high risk of having an excessive number of stimuli in a short time period.
The sensory analysis is complicated when the samples are quite similar, however, when we add the samples of early olive oils to the green and intense ones and bitter and spicy oils, this gets even more complicated. This is the reason why the Olive Oil School of Spain agrees to taste the samples little by little.
The Olive Oil School of Spain organizes the ESAO Awards one with the aim of promoting the culture and quality of extra virgin olive oils. Even though the conditions and rules must be reviewed every year, you can find the conditions of this international contest here.
OILS ACCEPTED IN THE CONTEST
In the ESAO Awards can participate who holds the ownership of an EVOO brand.
There will be only the extra virgin olive oils in bulk of the campaign, established in Regulation (UE) nº 1308/2013 of the European Parliament and the Committee, of the 17th of December of 2013, by which the organization of the common market of agrarian products is create. These oils must meet all the requirements for the extra virgin olive oils, established in the CEE Regulation nº 2568/91 of the Commission on 11th July 1991, regarding the characteristics of olive oils and oils of olive mark and its analysis methods and previous modifications.
Each participant could present as many extra virgin olive oil samples as desired. Always from an homogenous sample.
The oils submitted to the contest must proceed from an homogenous batch and its size will be at least of 500 kg for individual millers and of 1000 kg for cooperatives.
When the virgin olive oil from an homogeneous batch submitted to the contest is stored in two or more containers, these will be tested together in order to obtain only one final sample. No matter what, the container must be in the same facilities.
CATEGORIES AND ESTABLISHED AWARDS
The participants could submit their oils to the following categories, so that they will opt to the following awards:
- 3 Best International EVOO of producers/cooperatives
- 1 Best International EVOO of Packaging Brands/ Selles
- Best EVOOs by producing countries
- 3 best Producers EVOOs
- 3 best Cooperatives EVOOs
- Best EVOOs by Autonomous Regions (Spain)
- 3 best Producers EVOO + 5 finalists (*10 finalists for Andalucia)
- 3 best cooperative EVOO`+ 5 finalists (*10 finalists for Andalucia)
- Innovation Award to producers, cooperatives or packaging brands, national or international that submit their innovation
- 3 Local Variety Award to the Best EVOO of local variety, autochthonous or of special interest.
SUBMISSIONS, CHARACTERISTICS AND DEADLINES
- The samples can be sent from the 20th of September at the beginning of the campaign. The deadline for sending the samples with the physicochemical analysis with at least of two of these parameters (acidity, peroxides, waxes, K and esters, will be the 1st of March of the Campaign)
- Each sample will have its correspondent physicochemical analysis where at least the acidity and peroxides will be specified.
- The Olive Oil School of Spain reserves the right to execute an inspection of the container when they find it appropriate. On a random basis, a sample can be requested in order to check that the sample submitted to the contest meets the requirements and to make sure that it corresponds to its container.
- For each oil submitted to the awards, six final samples will be collected (four 500 ml samples and two 250ml samples). The Olive Oil School of Spain will act as depositary. The samples will be used for:
A 500 ml sample will be used for a sensorial analysis.
A 500 ml sample will be used as a security sample
Two 500 ml samples will be used by the OLIVE OIL SCHOOL OF SPAIN for fairs and exhibitions and other uses that may be considered appropriate for its promotion.
From the two 250 ml left samples, one will be saved for appealing the physicochemical analysis if needed, in case the acidity parameters, peroxides, waxes, Ks an steres need to be checked. The other one will be saved as a security sample.
Each sample will be sealed and will have a tag with the following data:
- Name of the brand (name under the product it is commercialized)
- Category (in which category the oil is submitted)
- Autonomous Region (Spain) or Country
- Container reference
- Specify whether it is a producer, cooperative or packaging brand
At least two of the 500 ml samples must be sent in the container in which the product is commercialized in order to be used in fairs or promoting actions. The rest of the samples can be sent in the container that the participant considers suitable for transport and conservation. However, ALL must be sent properly identified with the data described in point number.
ESAO will supervise the coding work in a way that ensures the anonymity, integrity and traceability of the samples.
Shipping address of samples duly identified and accompanied by a certificate and physicochemical analysis that includes, at least the parameters acidity, peroxides, waxes, Ks and esters.
ESAO - Escuela Superior del Aceite de Oliva
Calle Vicente la Roda, 6
46011 - Valencia - SPAIN
A panel of expert virgin olive oil sommeliers will be formed who will be coordinated by the Technical Directorate of the Higher School of Olive Oil, which will set the common and specific criteria according to the type of award.
The sensory evaluation will be carried out in two stages: a first selection whose objective is the elimination of any organoleptically defective oils. The oils that have passed the first sensory evaluation will undergo successive evaluations in order to select the five best oils for each modality.
The selected oils must pass the physicochemical assessment.
The panel leader will issue a report with the scores. In case of ties, the physicochemical score will be used.
Subsequently, the jury will identify the finalist samples with their corresponding coding and based on all the above, it will issue a report specifying the result of the evaluation and the positions occupied by the winners.
The organoleptic assessment of the Ministry of Agriculture and the International Olive Council will be used as a basis for scoring criteria.
ENDOWMENT OF THE PRIZES
- Provision of a logo of the Award received that may be displayed on the bottle, packaging, website and whatever supports are deemed appropriate.
- Sending a download link for the accrediting diploma to winners and finalists.
- Delivery of original diploma to winners and finalists attending the ESAO Awards Ceremony.
- Dissemination through the ESAO website (www.esao.es), in the specific section dedicated to the ESAO Awards.
- Inclusion of winning oils in the ESAO stand at the Fair, whenever it is considered appropriate, from the following categories:
- Best International EVOO
- Innovation award
- Local Variety Award
- Dissemination of the winners and finalists through ESAO's own social networks, email marketing, press releases and all those means that are considered appropriate.
Once the results of the three competitions have been selected, it is when we see that on many occasions, the winning EVOOs even coincide, in the first positions.
However, the first positions in any of these three competitions are equally important and are also the best in the world in that specific campaign, and always talking about the brands that have been presented.
When we are scoring a sample of outstanding category EVOO, in many cases the scores are the same, that is, they are tied. This means that the qualities are extraordinary in many samples, and that the first three positions are of a high quality.
In the event of a tie, at the ESAO Awards, we use the physicochemical parameters of the sample to be able to award first and second place and carry out the tiebreaker. It is also for this reason that special importance is also attached to the position of finalist.
Let's see which is the Best EVOO in the world according to the best competitions in the world:
From here on we are fully aware of what it means to be "The Best Oil in the World", and we are already getting closer to this magnificent work that is carried out year after year by many producers and oil mills in order to increase the quality of their oils. despite the fact that the returns are much lower than desired.
We are going to take into account the first three positions, since we insist the qualities in most cases are similar. Once we have seen the winning EVOOs in these three contests, we can see how the EVOO companies or brands are repeated in the first three positions.
Now, we do not have to lose sight of everything we have learned and, above all, becoming aware that the samples of the EVOOs from the current season are currently being valued.
We must also remember, as we have previously mentioned, that there are brands of extra virgin olive oil, which by their own decision, do not want to enter any contest, and it is possible that they have a high quality or that they are at the level of the best oil in the world.
It should be noted that there is no doubt that the lists where the first three positions appear in the lists of the three competitions that we value, is the Guide that collects the best olive oils, where we have at our disposal the brands of EVOO that work in high quality, a Guide of the Best Extra Virgin Olive Oils EVOOs of the world which ESAO works with every time it needs to turn to these companies, either for its own interest or for someone else's, towards distributors, importers, buyers, restaurateurs, press or anybody interested in the olive oil sector.