Israel Welcomes TerraOlivo 2010
Earlier today an international jury of 18 certified olive oil judges began the 3-day process of blind tasting 189 extra virgin olive oils from 14 countries. I’m at the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem attending the 1st annual Mediterranean International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition and Convention, and the judges are very focused.
“We must always start in the morning”, remarked Isabel Mazzucchelli, a chemical engineer who is a professional wine and olive oil taster from Uruguay. She was referring to the need for her palate to be fresh in anticipation of the 21 extra virgin olive oils that she and five other members of her panel were to taste before lunchtime.
TerraOlivo is an offshoot of the annual TerraVino international wine competition according to Chaim Gan. Chaim, along with Moshe Spak and Raúl César Castellani, are co-organizers and see this competition from the consumer’s point of view. As Moshe says, “This isn’t about chemical analysis or the label, and this isn’t about the individual country or the judge: this is about the olive oil. We are using a slightly modified version of the Mario Solinas rating sheet in our judging, and we are looking forward to publishing the results later this week”.
The response from producers for this first-time competition was outstanding, with oils from both large and small producing nations put forth including Spain with 61 entries and Israel with 46. Italian producers submitted 26 EVOOs, Portugal 14 and Argentina 13. Chile and the USA each had 6 entries followed by Uruguay with 5. Croatia and Greece each had 3 oils submitted, South Africa and Turkey 2, and Malta and Palestine 1 oil each.
The olive oils were divided into three classes: blends, varietals and flavored oils. Today 63 blends were judged, 21 each by three panels of six jurors. Mono-cultivars will be judged tomorrow and flavored oils on Tuesday. On Wednesday TerraOlivo has organized a convention with sessions on olive oil and health, olive oil branding and guided tastings of Israeli EVOOs.
After a welcome by the organizers, the jurors reviewed and discussed the official rating sheet in English and Hebrew with Dr. Fathi Abd El-Hadi, creator and taste panel leader for the Israeli Olive Oil Tasting Panel. Afterwards, the judges calibrated their palates amongst themselves with a blended EVOO comparing scores and discussing them prior to the start of the judging.
Three panels were commissioned for this historic event, with judges from Israel, Spain, Italy, Uruguay and Argentina, including many eminent olive oil professionals, such as Dr. Shimon Lavee, Professor Emeritus at Hebrew University and leader in the field of olive physiology, breeding and agronomic development. If you’ve ever had olive oil made from Barnea olives you’ve enjoyed his work!
“The response from growers has been outstanding”, according to Moshe Spak. “Producers recognize that consumers look to these competitions as part of their decision making process.”
Results will be announced at a gala awards ceremony on Wednesday night. For more information click http://www.terraolivo.org/